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The Difference Between Fresh and Dry Pasta

The Difference Between Fresh and Dry Pasta

The Daily Meal explains the difference between them and how to sauce your pasta appropriately

We’re not all Italian chefs, but sometimes we can’t help but debate over fresh and dry pasta. The most important things to consider when choosing between fresh and dry pasta are the sauces you plan on serving it with and the shape of the pasta you want to use. Head chef pastaio (or pasta-maker in layman’s terms) Ronald Palladino of Eataly explains in his interview with The Daily Meal that when choosing between fresh or dry pasta, it is necessary to consider the proper balance of shape and sauce. To achieve the perfect balance, he explains, is to make sure the sauce and pasta do not overpower each other.

A perfect example of this balance is with ravioli. When preparing a ravioli dish, you want to be able to taste the dough, pasta, and sauce equally. Palladino uses his personal favorite dish of a fresh gnocchi with pesto as way of describing how the thick, soft dumpling’s cheese filling is able to stand up to the strong flavors in the pesto. Building off of this, he recommends using thicker noodles when using stronger flavored sauces such as pesto or tomato.

When selecting the pasta from your local grocery store, you should only choose a pasta in which you recognize all the ingredients. A lot of pasta on the shelves now is now filled with preservatives and this will take away from the natural flavors of the pasta.

Some other important to points to consider:

Fresh pasta …
• Is extremely tender and takes less time to cook
• Contains eggs and more water than dry pasta
• Is better to use when stuffing, such as with ravioli and cannelloni
• Is incredible with lighter sauces such as butter and sage sauces, cream-based ones, and light vegetables sauces

Dry Pasta …
• Has a firm texture and takes more time to cook
• Should not consist of more than just flour, water, and salt
• Swells in size when cooking, sometimes doubling
• Has a rough surface and compact body
• Is used with stronger sauces such as tomato, pesto, and olive-oil based ones


Dry Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta: What’s the Difference?

In these days of “fresh is better,” wouldn’t it seem like fresh pasta would be preferable to dried pasta? After all, fresh pasta is often locally-made and uses, well, fresh ingredients, while dried pasta is shipped over long distances and has been sitting on shelves for an unknown period of time.

But not so–like red and white wine, like soft and hard cheeses, like the West Coast and the East Coast, neither kind of pasta is superior to the other. They’re just different!

Fresh pasta is made from a simple dough of eggs and flour, usually all-purpose flour or 󈫰” high-gluten flour. The dough is kneaded like bread dough and then pressed through rollers until it’s as thin as desired. Then it’s cut into long noodles or formed and stuffed into tortellini and ravioli.

Fresh pasta is best served with delicate sauces where the texture of the pasta can take front stage. Fettuccine Alfredo is a whole new experience with fresh pasta, no question!

Dry pasta is made from finely ground semolina flour and water (no egg, usually) that is mixed into a paste, pushed through molds, and cut into the multitude of pasta shapes we know and love. (Just like those old Playdough Fun Factories!) Unlike fresh pasta, this pasta is dried at a low temperature for several days until all the moisture has evaporated, allowing it to be stored almost indefinitely.

Dry pasta is best suited for hearty dishes like ragu sauces, soups, and casseroles since it’s a firm structure will hold up better with other ingredients.

Just like any other product on the market, you can find high-end forms of both pastas, as well as cheaper supermarket versions. But fresh or dry, long noodles or intricately shapes, it all comes down to personal taste.


Instant yeast is a dry yeast that comes in smaller granules than active dry yeast, absorbs liquid rapidly, and does not need to be rehydrated or proofed before being mixed into flour. Bread machine yeast and rapid-rise yeast are instant yeasts that may include ascorbic acid, a dough conditioner. Bread machine yeast is an instant yeast especially formulated for use in a bread machine. Again, store the yeast in a cool dry place, or in the refrigerator once the package has been opened. Do not use yeast after the expiration date.

Fresh yeast, also known as compressed or cake yeast, is active yeast. It&aposs sold in tiny cakes in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets. Fresh yeast does not keep well it will last about two weeks if refrigerated. The yeast should be pale gray-brown, fragrant, soft and crumbly — not hard, dark brown, or crusty. Any mold growing on the surface is an indication that the yeast should be discarded. Fresh yeast should be proofed in tepid water (80 to 90 degrees F) without contact with salt or sugar. This yeast type is a good choice for breads requiring a long cool rise, or for breads made using the sponge method, such as this Italian Biga recipe.


Minerals

Fresh pasta is a good source of iron and zinc. About 83 percent of the total iron comes from 3/4 cup of enriched flour, but the two ingredients combined supply 5 milligrams. That amount gives men 65 percent of their daily value, while women get 29 percent. The flour and egg contribute equal amounts of zinc, delivering a total of 1.3 milligrams, or 12 percent of men’s and 16 percent of women’s daily intake. Zinc needs to be a regular part of your diet because your body doesn't store it -- if levels go down, your immune system can’t work at optimal capacity.


What Is the Difference Between Pasta and Egg Noodles?

If you’re thinking the answer to the question “What is the difference between pasta and egg noodles?” is an easy, obvious one, you’re right.

Well, sort of. Eggs are the big differentiating factor between egg noodles and pasta. But it isn’t that the latter is made without them entirely (although technically it can be), rather it’s that the dough generally calls for a smaller proportion of eggs. So, in a way, pretty much all pasta is a type of egg noodle.

Egg Ratios

Now, as much as I’d love to give you a scientific, grey area-free answer like “egg noodle dough always calls for double the amount of eggs that pasta dough does,” these simple, fundamental recipes are never that cut-and-dry consistent. It’s one of those three-different-cooks-three-different-answers kind of conundrums.

That being said, research suggests that many fresh pasta doughs call for about 100 grams (a little less than a cup) of flour per egg used. Whereas a recipe for egg noodles, known for the richer flavor and color their namesake contributes, might call for anywhere between three eggs per two cups of flour to two eggs and four yolks per two cups of flour. (Of course, you can also find yolk-free egg noodles.)

Dry pasta, by the way—that is, dried Italian pasta like spaghetti, penne, and the like—usually does not contain any eggs, just semolina flour and water (but exceptions, as always, apply).

De Cecco Pasta Egg Pappardelle, $3.84 on Amazon

These are technically egg noodles too.

Types of Flour

Some would also argue that the type of flour used can be another distinguishing factor between the two. Pasta dough, as a signature, almost always calls for some proportion of semolina in addition to all-purpose (or pricy, super-fine, “00” flour, if you’re fancy), whereas egg noodles can be made with a wide variety of different flours.

Antimo Caputo Italian Double Zero Flour, 2 bags for$11 on Amazon

In case you want to try making pasta from scratch.

Get into the world of gluten-free pasta, however, and all bets are off.

Types of Pasta & Types of Noodles

Pasta has greater liberties when it comes to shape and size—with way too many options to list here—and so by extension, the variety of dishes that can be made from it is more expansive too.

Egg noodles are basically confined to the broad, flat, thicker-textured classic noodle shape, though they come in fine, broad, wide, and extra wide versions.

365 Everyday Value Organic Extra Wide Egg Noodles, $2.29 on Amazon

Made with cage-free eggs and organic durum wheat semolina flour.

A big exception to this egg noodle shape rule, of course, are the range of Chinese noodles like chow mein and lo mein which are also technically egg noodles. Plot twist: ramen noodles, though yellow in color, do not normally contain eggs.

Rose Brand Gourmet Chinese Egg Noodles, 4 packs for $17.49 on Amazon

Great for hot stir fries and cold noodle dishes.

How to Use Egg Noodles

Perhaps the limitation of the shape is why we see really only ever see egg noodles play the same recurring roles: Either baked into a casserole or as the sauce-soaking base to some kind of hearty stew. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

Now, that’s enough noodling around. Basta with all the pasta talk, let’s get to the recipes already.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Wait, stop. Don’t go running for the hills just yet. Just because Mom and Dad still have nightmares of the grey, gloppy, tasteless school cafeteria version doesn’t mean all hope for tuna noodle casserole is lost. As this revamped interpretation proves, the key to deliciousness is fresh, quality ingredients (aka, the good tuna packed in oil), a good crisp topping, and taking care not to overcook the egg noodles. Get our Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe.

Pressure Cooker Osso Buco Milanese

As much as we might all love a good osso buco, the iconic Italian braised veal shank dish, let’s be honest: making it requires a lot of work. Like, almost deterringly so. Which is what makes this pressure-cooker interpretation so incredibly appealing. After a mere half hour, you’ve got fall-off-the-bone tender meat coated in a flavor-packed complex sauce, just waiting to be served over buttery egg noodles. Get our Pressure Cooker Osso Buco Milanese recipe.

Beef Bourguignon

Of course, if you are up for an involved, marathon cooking kind of challenge, there’s always the Julia Child-favorite, Boeuf Bourguignon. We’re talking tender chuck roast cooked for hours in a red wine-spiked beef broth that is packed with herbal aromatics and flavor enhancers like mushrooms and pearl onions. You could serve it over roasted or mashed potatoes, but really, rich egg noodles are the best for soaking up all that good sauce. Get our Beef Bourguignon recipe.

Slow Cooker Beef Goulash

For something beefy, complex, and tender that’s also an easy one-pot meal, try our slow cooker beef goulash. With chunks of sweet carrots, smoky paprika, and fragrant caraway seeds mingling with the rich beef short ribs, you need nothing more than egg noodles and a dollop of cold, tangy sour cream to complete this perfectly filling fall meal. Get our Crock-Pot Beef Goulash recipe.

Kale and Mushroom Stroganoff

The classic Russian dish gets a vegetarian makeover here, replacing the traditional ground beef with a meaty mushroom medley and hearty kale. (But don’t worry, my fellow healthy food avoiders, the slick, rich sauce stays true to its delectable sour cream and butter formula.) Get our Kale and Mushroom Stroganoff recipe.

Miso Chicken Noodle Soup

Not that classic chicken noodle soup really needs upgrading, but subbing savory, umami-rich miso for the usual chicken stock really takes this soul-warming dish to the next level. Get the Miso Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.

Spicy Chicken Takeout Noodles

Celebrate the other egg noodles—not those familiar short, loose spirals—with this savory soy sauce-enriched dish with sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Here, thin, dense Hong Kong-style egg noodles (think chow mein), are tossed with sauteed carrots, bell pepper, aromatics, and Sriracha, with cooked chicken for protein. Use leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a super quick dinner, or swap in shrimp, steak, or pan-fried tofu, and garnish with scallions and peanuts. Get our Spicy Chicken Takeout Noodles recipe.

Header image by Chowhound, using photos from PxHere and Shutterstock.


No-Boil Lasagna Noodles vs. Traditional: What's The Difference?

When it comes to lasagna that meets the approval of even the most discerning of nonnas, “simple” and “fast” aren’t usually relevant adjectives. It’s often a labor of love, made from daylong sauces, handmade pasta and a work-intensive process of layering everything together.

In an effort to save some time and energy, many Italian cooks have made peace with sheets of dried lasagna noodles, appreciating their efficiency in comparison to hand-rolled dough sheets. However, they still need to be boiled, which can be a little time-consuming and potentially sticky.

But modern food technology operates around one clear ethos: There’s always another shortcut. That’s why no-boil lasagna noodles, which are layered into your dish raw and come out of the oven fully cooked, are making a major splash among American consumers. Sometimes you’ll see them labeled as “no-boil” lasagna noodles, other times they’re called “oven-ready.” But how do these magical boil-free noodle sheets work, and what do trained chefs think of this speedy product?

We asked a group of kitchen experts to offer their opinions on no-boil lasagna noodles, and they provided us with a useful list of pros and cons well worth considering before your next grocery trip.

What are no-boil noodles, and how do they work?

HuffPost consulted culinary scientist and cookbook author Jessica Gavin for an overview of how no-boil noodles are made.

“ Food manufacturers have figured out a clever process in pasta-making to eliminate one of the most laborious steps to preparing lasagna,” she said. “To make the pasta sheets no-boil and oven-ready, the ingredients are mixed, extruded to create the long shape, then sent through a water bath. This step gently precooks the pasta, which is then mechanically dehydrated to what consumers see at the grocery store.”

In terms of ingredients and nutritional value, Gavin explains that both no-boil and standard dry lasagna use similar ingredients for a pasta base: semolina wheat, durum wheat flour and water, often enriched with iron and B vitamins. Some no-boil noodle formulas may also contain eggs, but the general nutrition facts for the two types remain very similar.

If you’re wondering how no-boil noodles can possibly end up cooked when your lasagna comes out of the oven, Gavin has the answer. “When the no-boil noodle sheets are layered in between wet ingredients like sauce and ricotta cheese and then baked, they act like a sponge. The dried pasta begins to absorb the water from the surrounding ingredients, rehydrating and softening to a sturdy yet tender texture over time.”

She says that covering the baking dish with foil helps to further steam the noodles, and that using a “wet” tomato-based sauce works better than something like alfredo sauce, which tends to be on the thicker, dryer side.

Pro: No-boil noodles take the guesswork out of lasagna-making

One of the most challenging aspects of lasagna-building involves the delicate balance of a soft center and those appealingly crunchy edges. Boiling noodles ahead of time can cause complications: If the lasagna sheets are over-boiled even a little bit, they’ll interfere with the texture of the dish as a whole.

Luckily, recipe developer Jessica Formicola of Savory Experiments sees no-boil noodles as a simple way to sidestep that problem: “ I almost exclusively use no-bake lasagna noodles these days. They save time and, quite often, also prevent the pasta from being overcooked and mushy. Plus, you still get the crispy edges.”

Pro: As long as you avoid overcooking, no-boil noodles are an easy and consistent lasagna solution

The appeal of no-boil lasagna noodles comes courtesy of their expedience and their consistency. That said, it’s still important to watch your oven timer and to ensure that you’re baking your lasagna for the proper duration. “ No-boil noodles hold a nice texture ― just make sure you don’t overcook the dish,” said executive chef Walter Pisano of Tulio in Seattle. “While we always make our pasta from scratch at Tulio, the everyday home cook may not have the time or energy to do that, so I’d recommend they give these no-boil noodles a try. It’s a quick way to make a homemade meal for the family on the fly.”

Pro: High-quality no-boil noodles are out there

Gian Paolo Bruschi, a trained chef who currently consults for New York City restaurants D.O.C. Wine Bar and Norma Gastronomia Siciliana , insists there are perfectly good options for no-boil noodles out there.

“ I maintain that the no-boil lasagna has reached a quality level that is quite elevated and almost indistinguishable from the traditional fresh homemade lasagna,” Bruschi told HuffPost. “When comparing good quality no-boil lasagna noodles with homemade lasagna noodles made with Italian ingredients, there is no significant difference in taste. However, when using the no-boil lasagna noodle, the cook has to pay attention to the process.” If you’re using a dry sauce like a bechamel, Bruschi suggests adding a little more liquid to help the no-boil sheets better soak up the moisture.

Formicola swears by Barilla’s Oven-Ready Lasagne. “Never had them go wrong!”

Con: No-boil noodles lack surface starch, causing structural issues for the lasagna

A major downside involves the lack of starch produced by no-boil pasta sheets. Boiled noodles release a layer of starch, which helps the sauce, cheese and other lasagna accouterments adhere to the pasta. “ [No-boil noodles] are par-cooked for convenience, but because they’re pre-boiled, they lose their residual surface starch,” explained recipe writer and blogger Jim Mumford of Jim Cooks Food Good. “When you boil lasagna noodles, they will have a thin layer of starch on the outside from the cooking. This starch helps bind the lasagna together and proves integral to the structure of the dish.”

Con: No-boil noodles often aren’t as firm

According to culinary blogger Heloise Blaure of HomeKitchenLand , “Traditional noodles have a much firmer texture than the no-boil ones, so they contrast better with the softness of the ricotta. Sometimes, eating no-boil lasagna just feels like eating a spoonful of cheese filling.” So if you’re filling your lasagna with something soft, you may want to opt for traditional noodles.

Con: You’ll likely never achieve the absolute best lasagna with no-boil noodles

For a lasagna that truly surpasses expectations, chefs typically agree that fresh noodles are the right move.

Chef and New York Times bestselling cookbook author Devin Alexander considers the fresh pasta-making process a unifying experience for loved ones, and it’s one that she treasures from her childhood.

“ As someone who grew up in an Italian household where we had a full, from-scratch lasagna dinner before the traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, I can tell you that there is nothing like homemade lasagna noodles. My grandmother would roll over in her grave at the mere thought of mushy boxed noodles. However, I happen to be the mom of a 2-year-old voracious little foodie. Though I make almost all of her meals from scratch daily, I do understand that most people don’t and/or can’t do that. If cutting corners as a mom is the only way to make things quasi-homemade, I wouldn’t ‘snob’ on you! But I will say that, when you use no-boil noodles, you’re missing out.”

The bottom line

No-boil noodles may never produce the best lasagna of all time, but if you’re looking for a reliable alternative to traditional noodles that’s fast and user-friendly, they’re definitely worth a try.


The primary difference between fresh and dry pasta is that fresh pasta contains soft wheat flour and eggs, and dry pasta uses durum flour. As a result, fresh pasta is more moist and tender, and it cooks in about half the time. Fresh pasta is ideally paired with light sauces, often butter- or cream-based ones, while dry pasta tends to go better with tomato-based sauces.

Making fresh pasta is a simple but tedious task. Flour, eggs, water and salt are combined and kneaded. The dough is then rolled out with either a rolling pin or a pasta machine, and then it is cut into the preferred style, whether fettuccine, ravioli or farfalle, for example. Then the pasta can be cooked immediately in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente.


Is It Worth It?: Fresh Pasta Versus Dried

If you've reached this point and you're wondering why on earth anyone would bother to make pasta from scratch when it's just a boiling pot of water and a cardboard box away, then it's time to get acquainted with the fresh stuff. It's crucial here to understand that fresh pasta and dry pasta are two totally different beasts, each suited to different tasks, and the qualities we look for when making them are accordingly distinct.

Your typical fresh, Italian-style pasta is made from a combination of eggs and flour. As I've mentioned, many iterations of this basic formula exist, but this definition should do just fine for now.

The eggs and flour are mixed into a stiff but pliable dough that's kneaded, rested, and then rolled—usually through a machine—and either cut into strips for noodles or left in sheets that are used to make lasagna or stuffed pastas, like ravioli.

Pros will adjust their basic dough recipe depending on which kind of pasta they're making my basic pasta dough will work well for a wide variety of styles.* Fresh pasta is considered superior to dried pasta in several important respects—namely for its tender, silky texture rich, eggy flavor and soft yellow hue.

*For the purposes of this post, we won't be getting into extruded pastas—your penne, rigatoni, macaroni, and so forth—which require different equipment and a substantially different dough formula.

Dry pasta, on the other hand, typically contains no eggs. It's made by mixing semolina flour—a coarse wheat flour—and water. The two are industrially mixed, shaped, and dried at low temperatures for optimal storage. Not only is it more convenient than fresh pasta, but the denser, firmer texture stands up to (and actually requires) longer cooking times. That same firm texture means it holds up beautifully under heavy, hearty sauces.

The recipe we'll be breaking down here is for a light, springy, and delicate fresh pasta that's as well suited to slicing into noodles as it is to making stuffed pastas, which require super-thin, pliable sheets of dough.


Pasta - Homemade vs Store-Bought

Ever wonder if there's a big flavor difference between typical store/dehydrated pasta vs. homemade? According to professional chefs and the dozens of avid cooks I questioned, there are absolute differences! The one thing I heard over and over was: "Homemade pasta is the bomb!"

The best part of making your own food is the ability to experiment! Sure, you can get spinach or tomato pastas in the store, but is there something else you've always wanted to try? Why not add some chili peppers for a Mexican flair, or ginger and leek for Asian foods, for instance.

When I asked "WHY, exactly?" The typical answer I got was that homemade pasta is a different and more complex pasta than you can buy at the store. My cooking-loving friends all agreed that once you've made your own pasta, you won't be satisfied with anything else. They all agreed that aside from flavor, there is a really major texture difference between freshly made compared to store-bought dried.

And other comments on flavor and texture: "Handmade is so much lighter, and not chalky like store-bought." and "It's smooth as silk." One neighbor told me her daughter (age 8) makes all of their pasta. This little cook sits up on the counter next to the Kitchenaid (fitted with the pasta attachment), and just feeds the dough through. It's that easy.

That was the other thing I heard a lot - that it's easy to do. You can create ANYTHING and any type of pasta at home. There's some tinkering you might need to do, depending on type of flour you're using, but I was reassured over and over that this isn't rocket science. Also, a side benefit from making your own pasta is that you can save money - you're spending pennies compared to a few dollars when doing it yourself.

I also heard that homemade pasta cooks much faster and absorbs flavors better.

When I asked about favorite types of pasta to make, many answered that homemade ravioli was the best. The reason? It's easy to roll out and it can be stuffed with just about anything imaginable - squash, eggplant, crab etc. As long as the filling is not too watery, it's fair game!

The pros all advised that if you decide to make your own pasta, be sure to use semolina flour and fresh eggs.

Then, thinking some of you might be interested in pasta making and therefore would wonder about which machine is best, I asked that very question of my pasta-making friends. Their answers were fairly unanimous: The KitchenAid® attachment makes the best pasta. Two friends who cater said they also loved how you can also use the rollers for other things like rolling out very thin crackers and fondant for decorating!

And how do the amateur opinions stack up against the professional cooks of the world? They're in agreement. Most pros I researched recommended the pasta roller attachment for the KitchenAid®.

Finally, fresh pasta contains only three ingredients: flour , salt , and eggs . And for those of you that are thinking this might be fun to try, here are a few tips from the pros:

• Semolina, a high-protein flour made from Durum wheat, makes better pasta than all-purpose flour. It creates a stronger gluten structure, allowing for more pliable dough.
• Salt provides flavor, and the eggs create richer dough, along with binding the dough together.
• Olive oil adds the finishing touch - just be sure to use a high grade extra virgin, cold pressed oil.

Sources:
www.sheknows.com
www.yellowbrickoven.wordpress.com
www.thewimpyvegetarian.com
www.best-food-processors-reviews.good-stuffblog.ingo www.katom.com


Noodles: Fresh vs. Dry. What’s the big difference?

They’re just noodles. It is just dough. I cook them in water, toss them with sauce and eat them…right?

OK, well not completely wrong. It’s true that noodles are dough and are typically cooked in water and then tossed with some kind of sauce. But the type of noodle you are going to use has a great impact on the flavor of the dish.

These are typically made from flour, water and egg. The eggs are used for strength. Eggs give noodles their unique “bite” and prevent them from becoming a pile of mush in your mouth. Fresh noodles cook fast! Depending on their thickness, fresh noodles can cook in as little as 1 minute. Fresh noodles are used in stir-fry dishes such as Chow Mein and Lo Mein. They can be use in soups, but they must be added at the last minute and will get soggy as they sit (think of canned chicken noodle soup).

Cooking Tip #1: For stir-fried noodle dishes, I cook the noodles then cool them quickly by “shocking” them in ice water then drain them. This will allow the glutens to relax and the noodles will be less likely to break apart in the rigorous cooking process.

These noodles are normally made with flour and water. The dough is laid out “sheeted”, cut or “slit” into the desired size and shape then allowed to dry by hanging. Usually, these do not contain eggs (although it is easy to find their egg-laden counterparts). They need much more time to cook than fresh noodles, usually a minimum 5 minutes. I prefer to use these noodles for applications that require longer holding times like soups, buffets and banquet parties. The dried noodle holds its shape longer and its absorption rate of moisture is a lot slower, hence the longer cook times.

Cooking Tip#2: It doesn’t matter if you are cooking fresh or dry noodles make sure there is enough water to maintain a rapid boil throughout the entire cooking process. This will ensure you don’t end up with a pot full of “stuck together” pasta.

The bottom line is you can use whatever noodle you see fit. Personally, I would always choose a fresh noodle over a dry noodle.


Pasta Questions

A. Ideally, pasta should be served immediately after cooking, but we recognize that there are times when making it ahead of time would make entertaining easier.

Here's a suggestion, but it works only for pasta that will be sauced at the table or immediately before serving: Cook the pasta ahead of time, drain, and pour into a bowl that's been rubbed with a little olive oil. (The oil will prevent the pasta from sticking to the bowl after it has cooled.) If you won't be serving the meal for a half hour or more, refrigerate the pasta.

Just before serving, pour the pasta into a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Simmer and stir gently just until the pasta has separated, no more than one minute. Drain, and serve.

Another alternative is to use fresh pasta instead of dry pasta. Fresh pasta requires only a minute or two of stove time, so it can be cooked just before serving.

Q. The package instructs me to cook the pasta until "al dente." What does this mean?

The literal translation of this Italian phrase is "to the tooth." It indicates a degree of doneness when cooking pasta. Al dente pasta is slightly firm and chewy, rather than soft.

Q. How do you cook rice so that it turns out dry and the grains are separated?

Q. How do you cook rice so that it turns out dry and the grains are separated?

A. This pretty much depends on the type of rice you use. There are three commercial grades of rice -- long-, medium- and short-grain -- and the length of the rice kernel affects the texture of the rice when it's cooked. Medium- and short-grain rice have a high starch content, which makes the cooked rice moist and sticky long-grain rice has less starch, so it cooks up dry and fluffy.

Each type of rice requires a different amount of liquid, so check the cooking directions on the package. For instance, brown rice -- which has been minimally processed -- and converted, or parboiled, rice take longer to cook than white rice and require more liquid (generally 2-1/2 to 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice).

Another way to keep the grains separated is to add about a tablespoon of oil, butter, or margarine to the pot while cooking. This lubricates the individual grains and prevents them from adhering and clumping together.Another bit of advice: Don't stir rice while it's cooking because stirring also will make it stickier.

An easy way to make clump-free rice is to use the pilaf method: Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup long-grain rice. Cook and stir the rice over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until rice turns opaque. Add 2 cups boiling chicken broth or water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook over low heat for 14 minutes or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed.

Q. What is the difference between fresh and dry pasta?

Pasta is classified as either dry or fresh. Dry is the traditional kind sold in a box in the supermarket, while fresh means that it hasn't been dried before packaging.

Fresh pasta is generally limited to long goods-spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine-or filled pastas, such as ravioli and tortellini. The dough is made by combining all-purpose wheat flour, whole eggs, sometimes oil for easier handling, and salt for flavoring. It is blended, kneaded, and then rolled out, either by hand or machine. It is then cut into desired widths.

Commercially made fresh pasta is sold in bulk in natural food markets, Italian markets, and in some regular supermarkets. Packaged fresh pasta is sold in most supermarkets. Fresh bulk pasta is highly perishable and should be used within four or five days. Packaged fresh pastas last longer, since most contain preservatives. Fresh pasta can be double-wrapped and frozen for up to four months, but don't thaw it before cooking it should go directly from the freezer into the boiling water.

"Specialty" fresh pastas also are available. These have vegetables, herbs, and seasonings added. For instance, spinach lends a green color carrots, an orange color beets or tomatoes, a red color and squid ink, a black color. Common herb and seasoning additions include basil, black pepper, garlic, and lemon.

Fresh pasta doesn't require a long cooking time most require only a minute or two in rapidly boiling water, so in addition to their fresh appeal, they also get a meal on the table fast.