I don’t know about you, but I find deciding what to cook for a week night dinner is the hard part, actually cooking it is easy. Pasta is one of my weekly staples for a quick dinner, but thinking up different sauces can sometimes hinder the quick fix. Being a solutions type of person, I have decided to make a list of 52 easy pasta sauce ideas (one for every week of the year), that way I can refer to the list when uninspired. I have attempted to make the list seasonal.
Different types of pasta lend themselves to different sauces, so I have suggested the pasta type too, however in my case, the pasta type is often dictated by the type in my cupboard. The general rule of thumb for marriage of pasta to sauce, is the “thinner” sauces (pesto) go best with spaghetti types and the thicker sauces(tomato and mushroom) lend themselves better to thicker pastas as the “bits” can cling to the curves etc of the pasta.
Before going into the list, a few words on pasta for those of you who are interested in the texture, taste and science of your pasta:
- As a general rule of thumb when buying pasta, the more you pay, the better the pasta.
- The difference in quality is determined by the ingredients and the manufacturing process.
Ingredients: the type of wheat used is key. Pasta is made from Durum wheat (or semolina), the quality of which varies hugely. The stronger the wheat (higher the gluten/protein) content of the flour used, the better the end product. Stronger flours are more expensive to buy as they are more difficult to grow (they need hot, sunny short seasons).
Manufacturing: Commercial pasta is made by the extrusion method. This means that the pasta dough is squeezed through a machine (extruded) and then dies cut the shape. The type of die makes a huge difference to the eating quality of the pasta. Dies made with bronze produce an end dried product which has a rough, porous looking texture (perhaps a bit speckled with white). Dies made with Teflon produce a smooth shiny surface. The rougher the pasta surface, the more the sauce is able to “stick” to the pasta. The smooth surface means the sauce cannot adhere to the surface, you are then left with a bowl of sauce after eating your pasta.
The other factor affecting the quality of pasta is the drying process. The longer the drying process, the better the quality (allows the gluten to form an insoluble network of fibres, which means when the pasta is cooked the pasta holds together well, (the water does not go cloudy with starch) and the texture is much firmer). Commercial drying times vary from 4 minutes to 52 minutes.
Bronze and time cost more than teflon and no time, thus the cost of the end product is affected.
When eating a good quality pasta, one generally needs less, as the eating experience is so much better (both in taste and texture). We generally feel satiated sooner if we eat something satisfying.