In nearly all recipes for pasta, as well as the numerous varieties of pasta dishes, the first steps in their preparation for the table are practically the same, for all of these foods pasta and sauce must be cooked to a certain point and in a certain way before they can be used in the numerous ways possible to prepare them. Therefore, in order that success may be met in the preparation of the pasta dishes that are made from these foods, these underlying principles should be thoroughly understood.

In the first place, keep in mind that while the time required to cook the pasta depends on its composition and dryness, dry pasta should be always cooked according to package directions.

Many pasta types are made of the same pasta dough and differ only in the shape of the pieces. However, the shape usually affects cooking time, consistency, ability to hold sauce, ease of eating, etc. Therefore, certain shapes are better suited for certain dishes, and such pairings may be part of certain cooking traditions.

Most pasta dishes can provide a quick and delicious meal for whole family in less than 30 minutes.

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Did You Know?
Under Italian law, dry pasta (pasta secca) can only be made from durum wheat flour or durum wheat semolina.

There are approximately 600 different shapes of pasta. Examples include spaghetti (thin rods), macaroni (tubes or cylinders), fusilli (swirls), and lasagne (sheets).

Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried and fresh. Dried pasta made without eggs can be stored for up to two years under ideal conditions, while fresh pasta will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

A widely noted, finished consistency of pasta is called al dente (Italian for to the tooth), soft but with texture, sometimes even with bite in the center.

Traditionally most spaghetti was 50cm (20ins) long, but shorter lengths gained in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century and now spaghetti is most commonly available in 25-30cm (10-12in) lengths.

In cooking, the Italian expression al dente describes pasta and (less commonly) rice or beans that have been cooked so as to be firm but not hard. "Al dente" also describes vegetables that are cooked to the "tender crisp" phase - still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. It is often considered to be the ideal form of cooked pasta.