Pasta e basta – Penne with tomato and basil.

Italian cuisine is considered one of the best and at the same time most popular in the world. The base of most dishes is pasta, the Italians know more than 400 kinds. The freshest and best pastas are called pasta fresca. They are made from semolina (coarse flour obtained from durum wheat varieties) and water, sometimes there are eggs added.

Pasta Fresca
Pasta Fresca

Pasta is given in Italy as the main dish, rarely as a snack. Cooked al dente and served with a variety of sauces tomato or cream-base, seasoned with fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano) and sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.

In fact, every pasta from the very beginning is categorized as pasta fresca, which is fresh, but some of them are manufactured only “to eat now”. Fresh pasta can be produced from some other ingredients as the dried one. Many Northern regions of Italy use the eggs and flour used to produce many other products, while South usually uses only semolina and water, which however, depends heavily on the recipe.

Pasta Fresca in Italy can be bought loose or packed, usually vacuum-packed. It has less shelf life than dried pasta. Open stays fresh for several days. Cooks a lot shorter than dried pasta. Many chefs believe that this is not a good form of pasta, because from the beginning it is soft and cannot really cook al dente.

Pasta Secca is nothing more than moulded and dried pasta. It is very durable, has a much longer shelf life. Note however, that once opened, after a long time it becomes weathered and is not suitable for eating. You won’t have any problems cooking it al dente though.

Pasta Fresca
Pasta Secca

The choice between fresh pasta (pasta fresca) and dried (pasta secca) depends mainly on the fact with which sauce we intend to serve it. Giving lighter sauces based on cream or butter, a good choice would be fresh pasta – thanks to a soft consistency perfectly absorbs the sauce, soaking its aroma. Pasta secca is better fit for heavier sauces, like a thick tomato sauces or meat.

Several years ago, when supermarkets were not as well stocked, making pasta in an Italian home was the norm. Now we prefer to buy pre-packaged pastas that are ready to eat in a few minutes of being thrown into hot water. Same with tomatoes… Why cook for yourself when you can buy ready-made tomato puree in a supermarket straight from Italy. This is a great facilitation, but… I prepared two dishes, one with pasta secca (De Cecco Pasta Penne Rigate) with tomato sauce based on finish tomato sauce from a jar (Orto D’autore Passat di pomodori italiani). Both products come from Italy and I bought them in SuperValue. The second version of the same dishes include pasta fresca and fresh tomatoes bought at Lidl.

I do not have to write that both versions were delicious, but I suspect the fresh products and I feel that the second version won the battle… Slightly, by a tiny bit, but still. A delicious Italian dish for a decent price and mega pleasant dining experience. Feel free to check yourself.

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