Pasta is quite simple and versatile but it does come with a few rules everyone should know. If you steer from them, don’t tell anyone! But at least you have been taught the basics. Please note that the following is for dried pasta.
How much pasta per person? This is a very good question. The answer is quite simple. And though it may sound funny, but its true.
If you are feeding Italians then you’ll need 112 grams per person and if they’ve been on the job-site all day you’d better amp that up to 115 grams (fresh pasta is 130 grams pp) So your standard 450 gram bag of pasta will feed 4 Italians or half of your 900 gram bag. But to err on the side of caution, always add a little more. You can always reheat pasta the next day. I would also suggest you have a salad and something else to go with that meal, like meatballs or roasted veggies & chicken.
The pasta maker Barilla measures differently and uniquely. They say 2 ounces per person, but that varies depending on the shape of the pasta. So they have devised a measuring system, found here Barilla.com
If you are feeding non-Italians then a 450 gram bag will feed 6 persons. The reason for the difference is because pasta is a staple for Italians, there’s always room for more. Kinda like potatoes are for North Americans and rice is for Latins and Asians.
The nationality does make a difference on how much to serve. But my comfort zone is too have too much than too little and you can always reheat it the following day! Have you ever had fried spaghetti????
Which type of pasta do I choose? There are hundreds (if not more) of types of pasta. Every shape has it’s own name and if the size is reduced or enlarged it gets a new name. Pasta shapes were meant to go with the sauce, not the other way around. I’ve read that there’s documented 149 different types of pasta and that didn’t include stuffed pastas. So if you want to be authentic, look-up which type of pasta you should cook for your sauce. Otherwise, imagine what your dinner will look and feel like based on the type of pasta you chose.
How long to cook the pasta is till al-dente, meaning to-the-tooth. So when its just beyond crunchy is when it’s done. Over cooking pasta makes it more glutinous, increases the sugars in it and thus makes it higher on the glycemic level than pasta cooked al-dente. The packages your pasta comes in will tell you how long to cook the pasta for as each manufacturer and each shape of pasta cooks for different lengths of time.
Make sure you heavily salt your water! It should taste like the sea. It’s the only time you can season your pasta and nothing ruins a dish more easily and noticeably is unsalted pasta.
When it’s cooked, add cold water or butter to the pasta. This will prevent it from sticking together. Do this when you have a larger group and you may need to serve at different times or second helpings. But if you’ve got just enough for the amount of people eating then add a couple of ladles of sauce. Either way, NEVER serve naked pasta in the bowl with sauce just sitting on top. Carnal sin!
Finally, top with grated cheese. Parm or Romano are some optimal choices. Sprinkle a few chili flakes on top if you like it spicy, or if you are a real Italian you’ll have a small peperoncin in a small napkin you carry with you! For real!