What Is Pasta?

Pasta is a food that has its origins in the Mediterranean but has grown to become a food eaten in countries all over the world. Originally made from two ingredients, flour and water, pasta is inexpensive and can be flavored with a number of sauces and creams. It originated as the poor man's food in southern Italy because it was easy and inexpensive to make. The ability to create hard pasta meant that it could be stored for months. Grocery markets now sell pastas and macaroni in all shapes and sizes. To cater to those with food sensitivities, there are also pastas now made from gluten free flour.

Types of Pasta and Macaroni

Pasta can be categorized by shape, and the common shapes are flat, hollow, smooth, and twisted. The names of the pasta identify the shapes. Spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, capellini and vermicelli are long and flat pastas. The definitions of these words include cord, little tongues, small ribbons, fine hair, and little worms. Cannelloni, penne, and rigatoni are hollow shaped pastas that are sometimes stuffed with cheese and meat or vegetables.

Penne is often used in pasta dishes with a cream sauce since the hollow shape allows the sauce to fill the pasta. The spiral shaped pastas are rotini and fusilli, and both of those words mean spirals or spindles. Lasagna is flat, sheet shaped type pasta that is often used to create a layered dish of pasta, cheese, meat, and sauce. The other popular type of pasta is ravioli. These are now sold frozen, but traditionally each side of the ravioli was cut out individually, stuffed and sealed with a light egg wash.

Popular Pasta Dishes

There are a number of pasta dishes that are popular in restaurants and homes. Lasagna is a favorite because it's simple to make and usually makes a large quantity. Italian homes often serve this pasta dish during the holidays. Ravioli is also popular because it can be stuffed with a number of different ingredients. The most common ingredient is a ricotta cheese filling, but many cooks also like to stuff their raviolis with meat, spinach, or pumpkin.

Spaghetti and meatballs is a favorite dish with both adults and children. Found commonly on restaurant menus, spaghetti can take on a variety of different flavors based on the sauce used. Some red sauces are smooth, while others have chunks of meats and vegetables. Fettuccine alfredo is an alternative to red sauce pasta, using a mixture of cream and cheese to create a white sauce. Pasta primavera takes advantage of seasonal vegetables and uses olive oil and herbs to flavor the pasta. This is a lighter dish and preferred by those who don't like heavy sauces.

Pasta is sometimes considered a fattening food, but it's really the sauces and additional ingredients used on the pasta that makes it a heavy food. Since pasta is made from grain flour, it's actually low in calories and fat. By varying the types of pasta used with different sauces, you can eat pasta every night and not worry about gaining too much weight.