You’ve been making pasta wrong – here’s how to do it the Italian way

Ten years ago, pasta was named the world’s most popular food and since then sales of the Italian product have only grown.

An international YouGov survey involving 25,000 people found that Italian food was the most universally liked cuisine in the world.

The poll showed that the dishes were enjoyed by 84% of those asked.

British food in comparison was only enjoyed by 50% of those surveyed with the Japanese being least fond of our food, which included fish and chips.

However, while many of us appear to enjoy pasta, we don’t tend to serve it like the Italians do.

We spoke to Roberta D’Elia, head chef at Pasta Evangelists about where we're going wrong.

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The foodie told us that one of the main problems in the UK is that we don’t correctly pair our pasta to our sauces.

Roberta told us: “This is particularly common in the UK: in Italy it is customary for certain shapes to be paired with specific sauces, as some shapes hold certain types of sauces better than others.

“In Italy, for example, it is unheard of to eat spaghetti with ragù: a thicker, wider shape (like pappardelle) is preferred, because it better sops up the heavy sauce.”

This means that spaghetti should not traditionally be partnered with bolognese… we know, shocking!

So that you don’t make any more pasta faux pas, or so you can make the most delicious pairings, we’ve put together an easy guide to matching your noodles to your sauce.

A quick guide to pasta pairings:

  • Light seafood sauces, oil or cream sauces pair with long and skinny pasta like spaghetti, linguini or bucatini

When cooking dishes such as frutti di mare, pasta pescatore or carbonara choose long pasta shapes which can be slicked with sauce but don’t need to hold anything heavy – like mince – to deliver flavour.

When cooking at home remember to add a ladle full of the pasta water to your sauce to provide a glossing effect.

  • Rich, meaty sauces – beef shin ragù for example – pair with long ribbons like papardelle, mafalda or fettucini

Your beef, pork or duck ragu or meatballs should be matched with thick pasta like pappardelle so that the pasta can carry the weight of the sauce.

  • Meat sauces, like bolognese, or heavy cream go with shells – conchiglie – or manicotti

When using a mince sauce you should aim to use pastas which can hold the sauce – especially big pastas can even be stuffed with sauce and cheese to provide a rich pocket of flavour.

  • Light, smooth sauces like pesto or smooth tomato sauce are best paired with twisted pasta like fusilli or strozzapreti

Quick lunchtime pastas like puttanesca or pesto should be paired with twisted shapes which can hold the maximum amount of sauce so that you can really taste the delicious flavours in every mouthful.

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  • Stuffed pastas like ravioli or tortellini should be coated in light, oil-based sauces which complement the stuffng.

When making ravioli you shouldn’t be coating them in masses of heavy sauce.

The insides should flavour the pasta the most while a light sauce can gloss the outsides with added taste.

  • Pasta bakes, or vegetable heavy sauces should go with tube-shaped pasta like penne, macaroni or garganelli

While tuna pasta bake may be a typical British dish, Italians are more likely to create pasta al forno or even to add hard-boiled eggs in some regions.

For this popular type of cheesy pasta it is recommended that you use tubed pasta so that the sauce can be packed inside.

  • Finally, pastas which can be added to soups or stews include Orzo, fregola, canestrini, stelline and pasta stars (stellete)

If you’re making minestrone or Italian wedding soup (not actually Italian by the way) or even a Northern Italian style pasta beef stew then try to use small pastas like star-shaped stellate (also great in corned beef hash).

So, if you're planning on whipping up a pasta dish this weekend, remember to appropriately pair your pasta shape to your sauce, or try a Pasta Evangelists' order to get tasty handmade fresh pasta delivered to your door.

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