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Pasta is one of our favourite ingredients to cook with. The ultimate way to create a cheap, quick and easy family meal, pasta is one of the most versatile staples out there. If you want to learn how to make your pasta perfect every time, what pasta to buy and how to make it from scratch, take a look at our handy guide to pasta. 

Types of pasta 

Dried pasta is the easiest way to make a pasta recipe at home. It lasts for ages, is super cheap and can be used in many different ways. There are so many different types of dried pasta on the shelf in the supermarket but which one should you go for? 

Penne

The long, thin tubes are very versatile and can be used to make most dishes. Especially good for pasta salad, it's hollow middle and slight ridges mean it can hold extra sauce.

 

Fusilli
The tight corkscrew swirls can sometime be fused with different colours with the addition of ingredients such as beetroot and spinach. Also incredibly versatile, they can be used to make most pasta dishes and are especially good for pasta bakes. 

Spaghetti 
The long thin stands are the basis for many classic pasta dishes including carbonara and Bolognese. Vermicelli is a very thin version of spaghetti while linguine is a slightly wider version.

 

Macaroni 
The small thin tubes are the ultimate shape for a really cheesy pasta dish - that's why it's called macaroni cheese! 

 

 

Farfalle 
Sometimes called bow-tie pasta for its unique shape, it is most commonly used with tomato and cream based dishes. 

 

 

Fettuccine
Translated as little ribbons in Italian, this noodle-type pasta is a thicker version of tagiatelle, which are both delicious with meaty sauces like Bolgonese. 

 

Conchiglie
The small shells are also a very popular pasta choice as they capture lots of sauce per bite.

 

 

Lasagne 
The thin layers of pasta are traditionally used to create the dish of the same name when combined with meaty and béchamel sauces and lots of cheese. Cannelloni is similar to lasagne but comes in round tubes and is normally stuffed with a spinach and ricotta filling. 

Stuffed pasta
As well as the plain dry pasta you can also get shapes that can be stuffed with a filling of your choice or come pre-stuffed in the ready meal section of the supermarket. Chose from ravioli (square pouches), tortellini (rings of stuffed pasta) or jumbo shells.

 

Fresh pasta 
Found in the chilled aisles of supermarkets, fresh pasta is ready in minutes and great if you want to try a posh pasta dish as it has a lovely fresh taste to it. It needs to be kept in your fridge and expires quite quickly after opening so is only really good for special occasions. 

Homemade pasta 
All you need to make homemade pasta is some strong flour (00 pasta flour is the best to use) eggs and some olive oil. It can be a little fiddly to make but it's worth the effort if you want to impress. It's a lot easier if you do have a pasta maker as you need to stretch the pasta until it's very thin. See our easy homemade pasta recipe and top tips from Simply Italian star Michela Chiappa to make your own pasta.

How to cook pasta 

Pasta has got to be one of the easiest things to cook. Dried pasta takes around 12 mins to cook (although you can get quick-cook varieties). Always check the pack before cooking. You need to get a large pan and fill it with 3-4 times the amount of water to pasta. You can add salt to the water to season the pasta but this is not essential and can be done afterwards.

Fresh pasta can be ready in as a little as 30 seconds so it's important to check it regularly. When cooking pasta, the experts say to cook it al dente (to the tooth) which means soft but with a firm bite but this is down to personal preference.

Once cooked, you can just stir through a sauce or combine with other ingredients and a sauce and bake with a cheesy crust to make a pasta bake - the choices are endless with our selection of easy pasta recipes. 

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  • Watch how to make classic carbonara with our step by step video, which shows how to cook this traditional…

    Serves: 2

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  • Soft potato makes gnocchi light and fluffy and a delicious alternative to pasta. This quick and easy dish…

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  • You can't beat a classic bowl of macaroni cheese. If you want to make sure yours is perfect every time, follow…

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  • Make a budget penne Bolognese like our mummy blogger Anneliese, who says: 'A Bolognese is such a versatile dish…

    Serves: 4

    Total time: 50 mins

  • Make a cheap cucumber and tomato pasta salad like our mummy blogger Anneliese, who says: 'We eat a lot of pasta…

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    Serves: 4

    Total time: 30 mins

  • This super simple bacon and broccoli pasta salad is perfect for nights when you don't want to spend ages in the…

    Serves: 2

    Total time: 15 mins

  • Slimming World are known for coming up with quick and healthy meal ideas that the whole family can enjoy - and…

    Serves: 4

    Total time: 20 mins

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