Our interactive station in The Kitchen Shop™ allows you to touch, feel, see and learn about cooking, and this month it explores PASTA! Let’s break it down and start from the beginning…
Pasta \ ‘pä – ste
Pasta is typically made from unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water or eggs, formed into sheets or various forms, and cooked by baking or boiling.
Pasta is well-known as an Italian specialty, but it likely has its origins in Asia. But nearly every country boasts its own pasta specialty – Spaetzle in Germany and Hungary, orzo in Greece, Pierogi in Poland, etc. In the melting pot that is America, pasta is most commonly known for Italian-style, but you’ll find a little bit of it all!
Here are some of the many pasta styles and how to use them:
Egg Noodles –
Technically, all pastas are egg noodles. The popular wide yellow egg noodles with a loose corkscrew shape are made with more eggs than a traditional pasta. You will find this type of noodle in many comfort foods, including Chicken Noodle Soup and Beef Stroganoff. (We recommend you stay away from the ‘yolk-free’ versions >> they lack flavor!)
Also known as Angel Hair, this is the thinnest type of pasta, made of long, very fine strands. It cooks quickly and is best with delicate sauces or quality olive oil.
The name means “little ribbons”, and this pasta resembles just that. It is a thick, very flat noodle and is often made fresh from flour and eggs. One of the oldest pasta shapes, Fettuccine is made to apri with thick robust sauces.
This thick spaghetti is hollow. It allows the noodles to soak up even more sauce. They taste great in casseroles, stir-fry, lemon garlic sauce or stewed in a broth with fresh tomatoes.
This short tube pasta is cut on the diagonal, all the better to scoop sauces inside! It’s very versatile and works well with sauce or in a casserole, soup or pasta salad.
This pasta has a tube-like shape, bigger than Penne, and has straight-cut ends. Its surface has ridges, which are good for holding sauce. The tube is wide enough to stuff with soft cheese or meat.
Colored Pastas –
You’ll often find small (or large) shaped pastas in multi-color packs. The pasta dough is often dyed using natural ingredients, including spinach, beetroot, turmeric and tomato. Great for pasta salads!
Bow Tie –
Also called Farfalle, the Italian word for butterfly, this pasta resembles bow ties or butterflies. Great with chunky sauces or in a cold pasta salad.
Maccheroni (in Italian) is pasta made from durum wheat and shaped in the form of slender tubes. There are several varieties of macaroni depending on texture, including Ziti and Elbow.
It is believed that the popular combination of macaroni and cheese originated in Italy and its popularity then spread across Europe. From there, it traveled across the ocean to America and was served on many colonial dinner tables – even that of Thomas Jefferson. Whether you make it from scratch, or buy it in that famous blue box, it is undeniably one of the world’s favorite comfort foods.
Try out our decadent CCKC version of the classic macaroni and cheese, ‘Grown-Up Mac & Cheese’ with caramelized onions and bacon. For heaven’s sake, it has bacon… how can you go wrong?!
Grown-Up Mac n Cheese
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup butter, unsalted, melted
1 gallon water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound cavatappi pasta, dry
½ pound bacon, roughly cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons roasted garlic pepper seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or 2 tablespoons prepared hot sauce)
3 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock
4 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the topping, in a bowl add bread crumbs and butter. Toss to combine well. Set aside.
For the pasta, in a medium stockpot add the water and salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until pasta is tender. Remove from heat and drain in colander. Set aside.
For the sauce, in a heavy skillet over medium heat add bacon and brown, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside. Add onions to bacon fat and cook until translucent. With a slotted spoon, remove onions and place in container. Set aside.
In same medium stockpot, add butter and melt over medium-high heat until foaming, stirring constantly. Add flour, mustard, garlic seasoning, and cayenne. Whisk for 1 minute or until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color. Gradually add milk and stock and whisk to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken.) Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, salt and pepper. Whisk mixture until cheeses are fully melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add pasta and reserved bacon and onions and mix well.
Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and top evenly with prepared topping. Turn oven settings to broil and broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until topping is a deep golden brown, rotating pan for even browning, if necessary. Remove from oven and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly. Serve warm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Find this and other CCKC favorite recipes in our cookbook – The Culinary Center of Kansas City’s BEST RECIPES – SECOND EDITION™. Available for purchase online (click here) and in our retail store, The Kitchen Shop™.