Pasta is commonly made from a dough of flour, egg and water and shaped into different varieties. The word "pasta" originates from the Italian for paste, referring to the dough. The flavouring of the pasta can be altered using different types of flour and ingredients, though the most popular flour is semolina flour. Pasta can be an exciting dish as the wide choice of shapes and flavours make it an ever-changing experience. A quick and filling dish, pasta is a staple meal in many countries.
One of the many different forms of pasta is long pasta. This pasta is best served with a sauce and comes in a wide range of widths from the very fine angel hair to the fat bucatini. The most common of the long pastas are spaghetti, fettuccine and tagliatelle. Spaghetti, which is Italian for "little twines," is a long thin tube of pasta and is probably the most well-known, often served with a Bolognese sauce. Fettuccine and tagliatelle are ribbon pastas; tagliatelle is thinner than fettuccine, but both work well with creamy sauces.
Tube-shaped pastas vary from smooth or ridged (rigati) pasta, with a straight or diagonal cut at the ends. Penne, rigatoni and macaroni are the most common. Penne pasta is a smooth tube of pasta cut diagonally at the end, giving it the appearance of a quill end, which is reflected in its name -- penne translates as "quill pen." Macaroni is made with a semolina and water. In its usual form it is a small short tube often served with cheese. Rigatoni is very popular in the south of Italy and is a large, ridged tube with square-cut ends.
A versatile dough, pasta can easily be shaped into different forms. Farfalle, which translates from Italian to "butterfly," is a small rectangular pasta with serrated edges that is pinched in the middle to form a butterfly, or as it is most commonly known, a bow-tie. Fusilli, or "little spindles," is a corkscrew-shaped pasta. Tightly shaped, fusilli is a wonderful pasta for trapping cream and vegetable sauces in its curls.
Some pastas are created to be stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables. The most common of these are ravioli and tortellini. Ravioli is usually square with ruffled edges and often filled with a spinach and ricotta mixture. Tortellini is a smaller pasta than ravioli, ring-shaped and usually stuffed with a meat and cheese. Fillings can be as varied in taste and texture as the pasta is in shape and size, providing a varied and interesting dish.