Pasta is a staple food of traditional
Italian cuisine, now of worldwide renown. It takes
the form of an unleavened dough. In Italy, the dough
is made mostly from durum wheat or, more rarely,
buckwheat flour, with water and, sometimes, eggs.
Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes that
serve for both decoration and to act as a carrier
for the different types of sauce. Pasta also includes
varieties, such as ravioli and tortellini, that
are filled with other ingredients, such as ground
meat or cheese. Pasta is eaten in Italy only as
first course or nowadays as "piatto unico".
There are hundreds of different shapes of pasta
with at least locally recognized names. Examples
include spaghetti (thin strings), maccheroni (tubes
or cylinders), fusilli (swirls), and lasagne (sheets).
Gnocchi and spatzle are sometimes considered pasta;
they are both traditional in parts of Italy.
Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried
and fresh. Dried pasta made without eggs can be
stored for up to two years under ideal conditions,
while fresh pasta will keep for a few days under
refrigeration. Pasta is generally cooked in boiling
Pasta is enriched with iron, folate and several
other B-vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin
and niacin. It is even nutritionally enhanced with
whole wheat or whole grain or fortified with omega-3
fatty acids and additional fiber. Very low in sodium
and cholesterol-free when no eggs are used in some
varieties, pasta is low on the Glycemic Index (GI)
- which means that they are digested more slowly.
Pasta provides a slow release of energy without
spiking blood sugar levels. According to the American
Pasta Association, enriched pastas provide an excellent
source of folic acid and a good source of other
essential nutrients, including iron and several
B-vitamins. Moreover, some varieties of whole grain
pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements
in every one cup portion.