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Perfect Italian pasta

There are - aren't chefs lucky? - dozens of different types of pasta and thousands of pasta-based recipes. Spaghetti and lasagna are old favorites, of course. But there are many more, and - after all - exploring new worlds of cuisine is part of the fun!

Shape is an important aspect of pasta since it has a heavy influence on bulk, what stuffings you can use, and so forth. Conchiglioni, for example, are perfect shells for stuffing with meat. The dish lasagna gets its name, not surprisingly, from the wide, flat shape that makes it perfect for layering.

But the ingredients vary, too. Most pastas are made of a combination of water and flour. There are pastas made from semolina flour, produced from durum wheat, and farina, buckwheat, and others as well. And, don't be misled by the phrase 'dry pasta'. Without liquid of some sort, there's no way to turn the flour into a paste, and hence pasta.

Eggs play a major role in pasta all'uovo. Many pastas will have embedded spices or even cheese. Pasta is nothing if not flexible! Don't be fooled, though, by any list which includes gnocchi, which is actually made from potatoes.

The alternative to dry pasta - pasta secca - is not wet pasta but fresh pasta - pasta fresca.

The normal process of making pasta extrudes it from a copper mold, which shapes it and creates the distinctive patterns found on the surfaces and edges of many. It usually then goes on to be dried, dried, dried. But that drying process can be stopped part way and the product consumed while the mixture still retains much moisture and flexibility. Mmmm, mmmm.

Whether dry or fresh, egg or plain, the whole point though is to use it for making pasta dishes. Here is a great example...

Vegetarian lasagna.