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About Pasta Dough

There are hundreds of possible different pasta shapes and they are all generally known by their Italian names in countries around the world. They range from lasagne (flat sheets) to spaghetti (long strings) to maccheroni (tube shapes) to fusilli (swirls). And you can use your pasta maker to make many different shapes and styles by using your ingenuity and the accessories supplied with your machine. Pasta is also versatile because an almost infinite variety of delicious sauces can be created to accompany it.

There are two main categories of pasta — fresh pasta and dried pasta.

Fresh Pasta

pasta dough ingredientsFresh pasta is made with wheat (semolina derived from durum wheat is best), eggs, and sometimes a dash of salt and even a little olive oil.

Fresh home-made pasta is a true culinary delight, delicious and full of flavor, a beautiful dining experience. In Italy, where the traditional al dente style of cuisine is very popular, this style is preferred over the softer meals typical of dried pasta. Al dente literally means "to the tooth" and describes a preparation style of cooking until firm but not soft. So for a genuine traditional al dente meal, you really should choose fresh pasta as your foundation ingredient.

Fresh pasta cooks much more quickly than dried pasta. For example, some fresh pasta styles cook in less than three minutes. It mainly depends on how thickly you have created your pasta, and how dry it has become since it was made. So you will need to experiment with taste tests here, or consult your instruction and recipe books for more info.

Fresh pasta is a good foundation for a healthy diet (provided you are able to eat wheat based products). But of course, the nutritional analysis of a fine pasta meal depends heavily on the types of sauces, fills and other ingredients you add to the pasta! As an approximate rule of thumb, the pasta alone is roughly three quarters carbohydrate, one sixth protein and one twelfth fat. This will vary slightly if you have added any salt or olive oil, and also on the ratio of wheat to eggs you have used. For professional dietary advice you should consult a doctor or nutritionist.

Fresh pasta keeps well for a few days if you store it in a refrigerator. You can also freeze it and it will last for a few weeks.

Dried Pasta

Dried pasta can be kept for more than a year under the right conditions. While this is very convenient, the eating experience is not as great as you can have when enjoying a meal cooked with fresh pasta. The flavor is the difference!

In brief, kernels of wheat are ground up to produce semolina in pasta factories. This is then mixed with water by the makers to make a dough. Sometimes other ingredients are added at this stage, such as eggs, tomatoes or spinach, to make special varieties. The dough is then kneaded and extruded through a metal container or die with specially shaped holes in it. The pasta is cut into the desired lengths by a blade mechanism and then placed into dryers for six hours or so, prior to packaging and shipping to grocery stores around the world.

In Italy, by law, dried pasta has to be produced from genuine durum wheat flour (or semolina). Durum wheat is a particular variety of wheat, and has a yellow tinge of color. However in other countries around the world, different grades of wheat are often used, but these generally produce a softer dish. Dried pasta is of course extremely popular for its convenience.



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