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Food glossary

Pasta

Pasta

Popular in Italy for hundred years, pasta is now eaten widely in this country, too. There are so many different types that the choice can be quite overwhelming. The majority of pasta is plain pasta made with flour (made from hard durum wheat ground into semolina) and water. Pasta made with eggs (all'uovo) has a richer taste and is now becoming more widely available.

Plain pasta is best served with simple sauces made from traditional Italian ingredients - tomatoes, garlic and onions - while egg pasta is best suited to creamy sauces. Coloured pastas are also available - green pasta is coloured with spinach, red with tomatoes or red peppers and the exotic-looking black pasta is coloured with squid ink.

The rules of which sauce to serve with which shape can be quite confusing - what is most important is that the end result tastes good so don't panic if you're not sure you've got it right! When Italians decide which sauce to serve with which type of pasta, they take several considerations into account. The larger the surface area of the pasta the larger the amount of sauce - so more sauce is required for pastas such as spaghetti and tagliatelli than for lasagne.

Ribbed pasta holds more sauce than smooth shapes so rigatoni will need more sauce than macaroni. Rich, creamy sauces are best with chunky shapes such as penne or fusilli, while if you are serving an oil-based sauce such as pesto choose a fine pasta such as spaghetti. Sheets of pasta such as lasagne are good cooked with chunky sauces made from meat, vegetables or fish.

Dried pasta

A convenient and widely available form of pasta and the basis of many quick and easy meals. Dried pasta is available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 18 months. Once opened use within 1 month - the pasta can dry out and become brittle if stored for too long.

To cook: Bring a large open pan of water to the boil and add salt if required. Add the pasta to the pan with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together and boil according to the packet instructions. Drain well and serve as required.

Long pasta such as spaghetti or tagliatelle should be eased gently into the pan - as it cooks the ends will soften and you will be able to push it further into the pan. If you are cooking pasta for a bake, cook it for a couple of minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the packet, otherwise it will be too soggy once it has been cooked in the oven as well.

Types of dried pasta available include:

Amori

Known as pasta knots, these chunky shapes are curly tubes of ridged pasta.

Uses: In pasta bakes and with rich creamy sauces.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of amori per serving and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Cannelloni

Large pasta tubes that are usually served stuffed and baked in the oven.

Uses: Cannelloni can be filled with a wide variety of fillings, including Bolognese sauce, seafood, poultry or vegetable sauces.

To cook: Allow 4-5 cannelloni per serving. Place the chosen filling in the raw cannelloni and place in a shallow, greased ovenproof dish. Arrange a single layer of cannelloni in the dish and cover with a tomato sauce. Top with cheese sauce, if required, and cover with grated cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 190°C, gas mark 5 or until the cannelloni is cooked right through.

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Farfalle

These bow-tie or butterfly pasta shapes are often a popular choice with children due to their novelty shape. Use fusilli instead of farfalle in recipes.

Uses: Serve with a simple tomato sauce or once cooked, rinse in cold water and allow to cool and use to make a pasta salad.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of farfalle per serving and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Gnocchi

Also known as shells or conchilige these pasta shapes have a ribbed outer surface and so sauce tends to cling to them. Rather confusingly they have the same name and shape as the light potato dumplings popular in Italy. Orecchiette can be used instead of gnocchi.

Uses: In pasta bakes or with thick creamy sauces.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of gnocchi per serving and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Lasagne

One of the most popular types of pasta, lasagne consists of sheets of either egg or plain pasta approximately 8 x 16 cm in size. There are a variety of different types including classic lasagne which is sheets of plain flat pasta made simply from durum wheat semolina. Lasagne all'uovo is egg pasta sheets that have a slightly ridged appearance. Spinach lasagne or lasagne verdi is dark green in colour and the sheets are flat. Lasagne verdi all'uovo is ridged egg pasta with spinach to give it the characteristic green colour.

The different types of lasagne are interchangeable, the spinach variety provides an alternative in colour to the classic plain variety, while egg lasagnes have a slightly richer flavour.

Uses: Lasagne is arranged in layers interspersed with sauce and then baked in the oven (al forno). The classic recipe is simply known as 'lasagne' and consists of layers of minced beef and tomato sauce, cheese sauce and lasagne. Alternative sauces for lasagne include seafood, vegetarian and chicken.

To cook: All Waitrose lasagne is ready to be used and does not need pre-cooking, to serve 4 allow 4-6 sheets of lasagne. To assemble a baked lasagne, spoon a layer of your chosen sauce into a lightly greased shallow ovenproof dish, top with a layer of lasagne and continue the layers until all the ingredients are used up.

A baked lasagne dish must always be topped with a layer of sauce (usually milk-based) to allow the layers of lasagne below to be properly cooked. Grated cheese (traditionally Parmesan) is often sprinkled over the final layer of sauce. Bake at 180°C, gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

Linguine

A thin type of spaghetti with flattened edges. Cocco pasta linguine is available exclusively in Waitrose, it is produced traditionally using custom-made bronze moulds and an extra-long drying process. Spaghetti or capellini can be used instead of linguine in a recipe but remember to adjust the cooking time.

Uses: Linguine is best served with a medium-thick sauce which will cling to the strands of the pasta. For a quick supper toss linguine in single cream and stir in some smoked salmon or cooked prawns, plenty of fresh parsley and black pepper, a little lemon juice and top with fresh grated Parmesan to serve.

To cook: Allow 75-100g per serving. Coil the linguine slowly into the boiling water and cook as above for 6-7 minutes.

Macaroni

These long, thin tubes of pasta are one of the most well-known types because of their popularity in the recipe macaroni cheese.

Uses: Cover in cheese sauce to make the classic macaroni cheese dish or serve with other creamy sauces.

To cook: Allow 50-75g of macaroni per serving and cook as above for 7-8 minutes.

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Nidi vermicelli

Vermicelli (literally small worms!) are very fine strands of pasta - like a thin version of spaghetti. Vermicelli is sold in Waitrose coiled in nests (nidi) in boxes (to prevent the delicate strands breaking).

Uses: Serve with oil based or thin creamy sauces - heavier sauces will soak into the pasta making it go soggy.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of pasta per serving and cook as above for 3-5 minutes.

Penne

Slender ridged pasta tubes that are cut diagonally, penne are also known as quills due to their quill or pen nib shape. Rigatoni can be used instead of penne.

Uses: Serve with thick creamy sauces or in pasta bakes with tomato-based sauces.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of penne per serving and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Rigatoni

Similar to penne (either can be used in a recipe), rigatoni are ridged tubes of pasta cut straight across rather than diagonally.

Uses: In bakes with tomato or meat sauces where the ingredients are finely chopped or with thick and creamy sauces.

To cook: Allow 75-100g of rigatoni per serving and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Spaghetti

Probably the most well-known of all pastas, the long strands of spaghetti orginate from Naples and it is still one of the most popular varieties. Many types are available including spaghetti tricolore which is a combination of plain, red (tomato) and green (spinach) pasta.

Uses: In the universally popular spaghetti Bolognese (a meat and tomato sauce) and spaghetti carbonara (a sauce made from eggs, bacon and Parmesan cheese). Spaghetti is best served with a medium-thick sauce which will cling to the strands of the pasta.

To cook: Allow 75-100g per serving. Coil the spaghetti slowly into the boiling water and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Tagliatelle

Long, straight pasta from Bologna in northern Italy. Tagliatelle is sold in nests or in straight pieces. Waitrose plain tagliatelle is sold as straight pieces.

Uses: Serve with thick creamy sauces that will cling to the pasta.

To cook: Allow 75-50g of tagliatelle per serving. Coil the tagliatelle slowly into the boiling water, and cook as above for 10-12 minutes.

Tortelloni

These are dried, pasta shapes available filled with ricotta and spinach.

Uses: Serve with pesto or a tomato sauce.

To store: Tortelloni do not keep for as long as unfilled dried pasta, they should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving for a main course. Cook as above for 6-10 minutes or until tender.

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Tortellini

Small dried pasta shapes available filled with cheese or cheese and ham.

Uses: Serve with pesto or a tomato sauce.

To store: Tortelloni do not keep for as long as unfilled dried pasta, they should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving for a main course. Cook as above for 6-10 minutes or until tender.

Fresh pasta

In Italy fresh pasta was traditionally served in the evening, and dried pasta for lunch. Fresh pasta is often made with eggs, giving it a richer flavour and texture than the dried varieties, it has the consistency of a soft dough and only needs to be cooked for a very short time compared to dried pasta.

When measuring fresh pasta remember you will need more than for dried pasta - dried pasta swells and absorbs a lot of water during the longer cooking process wheras fresh pasta isn't in contact with the water long enough to absorb much liquid.

To store: Fresh pasta should be stored in the fridge and consumed by the use by date. Once opened it should be used within 2 days. Fresh pasta can be frozen - freeze on the day of purchase for up to one month. Defrost fully in a fridge before use and do not refreeze once defrosted.

To cook: Bring a large open pan of water to the boil and add salt if required. Add the pasta to the pan with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together and boil according to the packet instructions. Drain well and serve as required.

Filled fresh pasta

A wide range of filled pastas are available, for a simple supper dish serve with a Waitrose fresh pasta sauce (choose from Amatriciana, Tomato and Basil, Red Pepper, Mediterranean Vegetable and Tuna, Cheese or Carbonara):

Smoked cheese and ham tortelloni

Fresh egg pasta shapes filled with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and smoked ham.

Uses: For a quick main course, serve with a ready-made tomato sauce and garlic bread.

To cook: Allow 125g of tortelloni per serving and cook as above for 3-4 minutes.

Spinach and ricotta medaglione
Large circles of fresh spinach pasta filled with spinach and ricotta.

Uses: For a quick and simple starter, drizzle some oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes over the cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan and finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

To cook: Allow 3-4 ravioli per serving for a starter and cook as above for 2-3 minutes.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli

Medium-sized fresh egg pasta squares filled with spinach, ricotta, mascarpone and Parmesan cheese.

Uses: Serve with ready-made tomato sauce and ciabatta bread.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving and cook as above for 3 minutes.

Conchiglie

Medium-sized pasta shells.

Uses: Serve with rich, creamy sauces or toss in tomato sauce, top with grated cheese and bake at 180(C, gas mark 4 for 20 minutes.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving. Cook as above for 5 minutes.

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Fusilli

Short spirals of fresh egg pasta, that open out during cooking. Fresh radiatore or riccioli can be used instead of fusilli.

Uses: Serve with a creamy sauce or in a pasta bake. Also good in pasta salads.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving and cook as above for 5 minutes.

Lasagne

Fresh egg pasta sheets, approximately 8 x 15cm in size, that are used to make a variety of different types of baked lasagne.

Uses: Lasagne is arranged in layers interspersed with sauce and then baked in the oven (al forno). The classic recipe is simply known as 'lasagne' and consists of layers of minced beef and tomato sauce, cheese sauce and lasagne. Alternative sauces for lasagne include seafood, vegetarian and chicken.

To cook: To serve 4 allow 12 sheets (250g) of lasagne. To assemble a baked lasagne, spoon a layer of your chosen sauce into a lightly greased shallow ovenproof dish, top with a layer of lasagne and continue the layers until all the ingredients are used up. A baked lasagne dish must always be topped with a layer of sauce (usually milk-based) to allow the layers of lasagne below to be properly cooked. Grated cheese (traditionally Parmesan) is often sprinkled over the final layer of sauce. Bake at 200°C, gas mark 6 for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

Penne

Slender ridged fresh and the egg pasta tubes that are cut diagonally, penne are also known as quills due to their quill or pen nib shape.

Uses: Ideal for serving in pasta bakes or with thick creamy sauces.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving and cook as above for 5 minutes.

Spaghetti

One of the most well known types of pasta, fresh egg spaghetti is originally from Naples, where it is still very popular.

Uses: In the famous dish from Bologna, spaghetti Bolognese. Fresh spaghetti is delicious served with simple ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving and cook as above for 3 minutes.

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle is long, straight pasta which originated from Bologna in northern Italy. A variety of different types of fresh tagliatelle are available. Bianche tagliatelle are fresh egg pasta noodles. Garlic and herb tagliatelle are fresh egg pasta noodles flavoured with garlic and herbs. Tagliatelle tricolour consists of a combination of plain egg, spinach and tomato pasta.

Uses: Tagliatelle is best served with thick creamy sauces, possibly with small pieces of meat or fish, that will cling to the thin strands of pasta.

To cook: Allow 125g per serving and cook as above for 2-3 minutes.

Canned pasta

Cooked pasta is available canned in a variety of sauces, it is often popular with children and usually has a softer texture than cooked dried or cooked fresh pasta.

Uses: Canned pasta is popular served on toast or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

To cook: Canned pasta in sauce only needs to be reheated, this can be done in a pan on the hob or in a microwave oven, check can instructions for details.
Varieties available include:

Macaroni cheese
Cooked thin tubes of pasta coated in a cheese sauce.

Novelty shapes for children
A wide selection of pasta shapes in smooth tomato sauce are available including Postman Pat, Bob the Builder and Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends.

Spaghetti rings in tomato sauce
Small rings of spaghetti in a smooth tomato sauce.

Spaghetti in tomato sauce
Cooked long lengths of pasta in a smooth tomato sauce, similar to the sauce found in canned baked beans.

Ravioli in tomato sauce
Stuffed squares of pasta with a minced beef filling in a smooth tomato sauce.

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