4 Questions to Ask When You Buy Fresh Pasta

To download the free Pasta University E-Booklet all about cooking and handling fresh pasta products, log on to Lilly’s CustomerHub! If you haven’t signed up yet, please request your free membership invite here.

 

buy fresh pasta

 

 

So you’re a savvy chef, or a wise food buyer, or a restaurant owner with a keen eye for value. You already know you want to buy fresh gourmet pasta to add to your menu offerings. Pasta is an ideal canvas to showcase a chef’s signature flavors, and using fresh gourmet pasta can turn a great dish into an unforgettable one. High quality fresh pasta can also be a value-adding element of a menu item; this is more economical than elevating value with premium meats or seafood, which are subject to unpredictable market price fluctuations.

 

Using fresh gourmet pasta is an easy decision to make. However, a few more questions should weigh in your mind when you decide to buy the fresh pasta. Questions like…

 

1. To Freeze or Not to Freeze?

 

When deciding how to store fresh pasta, you’ve got options. A factor that may weigh on this decision is how you actually receive your pasta: depending on your proximity to your favorite fresh pasta manufacturer, you may be able to buy fresh pasta refrigerated or receive it frozen.

 

Buying and stocking refrigerated fresh pasta is an ideal option if you are A. located within a reasonable distance of your fresh pasta supplier and B. ready to get cooking! Fresh pasta has a shelf life of about 12 to 14 days refrigerated, and must be kept cool at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

However, we aren’t all lucky enough to be Lilly’s neighbor, and we don’t all consistently plow through pound after pound of fresh pasta on a consistent weekly basis. Luckily, there’s a just-as-great option number two: buy fresh pasta frozen! Once properly thawed, previously frozen (but still uncooked) fresh pasta retains the same quality and texture as a fresh-from-the-pasta-machine product. Frozen fresh pasta can stay in the freezer as long as nine months until you are ready to prepare it; once thawed, it has the same 12 to 14 day shelf life as refrigerated fresh pasta.

 

IMPORTANT TIP: If you buy frozen fresh pasta, you MUST thaw it thoroughly before cooking, AND before portioning! Trying to break apart frozen pasta will only result in broken noodles, which in turn leads to irritated chefs and/or very anticlimactic fork twirls. To thaw frozen pasta, just leave it in the fridge in the same box or bag in which it was delivered; it will be good to go in two to three hours.

 

2. Which Came First: the Pasta or the Sauce?

 

Disclaimer: here at Lilly’s, we don’t see the need to cling to culinary “rules” (we made a classic sandwich into a ravioli , for crying out loud). However, there are some basic guidelines to help inspire your pasta-sauce pairing. There are two ways to approach this project: either develop your sauce and accompaniments first, then select a complimentary pasta shape, or let the shape of the fresh pasta you buy inspire you to create a complimentary sauce.

 

buy fresh pasta

 

Regardless of which approach you take, there are a few general tips to stick to. As a general rule, light and delicate sauces are best with light and delicate pastas (think Angel Hair and Linguine). The thin pasta doesn’t get lost in an overwhelming sauce, the sauce isn’t rendered invisible by overly-present pasta, and everybody’s happy. Linguine with clam sauce is a classic pairing for a reason. Following this concept, it makes sense that rich meaty sauces (think bolognese) pair better with hearty noodles like Pappardelle and Wagon Wheels. Not only do the density and texture of pasta and sauce balance one another out; the bigger noodles are better to deliver the delicious chunks on every forkful.

 

On top of size and thickness, the shape of the fresh pasta can help you with pairing. Classic extruded cuts like rigatoni and ziti work wonderfully with baked casseroles and other hearty dishes, since the fixings get caught in the convenient hollow center of the noodle. Bucatini is also a unique player in this game, as its hollow center is perfect for capturing light sauces. Non-hollow pastas can be advantageous because of their shapes too – twisty shapes like Gemelli and Fusilli do well with velvety sauces that stick to their shapes. Fettuccine Alfredo may be the classic, but try a gemelli alfredo if you really want to showcase that sauce.

 

3. What About Gluten Free?

 

Even if you run the most traditional Italian restaurant, should you jump on the gluten free train? The short answer these days is yes, absolutely – gluten free options are becoming essential additions to menus and product lines. This is great news for pasta lovers of all dietary preferences – for a long time, the only gluten free pasta options were dried pastas that tasted passable at best. However, with more demand, the marriage of modern research and traditional culinary skills has brought fresh gourmet gluten free pasta into the gastronomic world.

 

There are some important things to remember about gluten free fresh pasta:

 

1.Gluten free pasta should NOT be thawed before cooking! I know I emphasized earlier that frozen fresh pasta should always be thawed first – this is a very crucial exception.

 

Gluten, for those who are not familiar with it beyond being a dietary buzzword, is actually a protein found in wheat products that helps them bind together and keep their shape. Since gluten free fresh pasta is missing this glue, it can fall apart if it reaches room temperature while still in an uncooked state (cooking the product binds together the ingredients and protects its structure). Simple solution: always cook gluten free pasta directly from a frozen state. Easy enough!

 

2. NEVER cook gluten free pasta in the same water or pot as regular pasta! This is straightforward enough for anybody who has worked in an allergy-conscious environment, but the temptation is often there to reuse the same pot of boiling water instead of starting a whole new one for a single guest who may or may not have a legitimate allergy. Resist – all requests for gluten free dishes must be handled as seriously as any other food allergy. Reusing the same water or pot presents a very high risk of cross contamination, and risking making your gluten-intolerant or celiac guests sick is in poor taste.

 

To be extra careful about cross contamination, uncooked gluten free fresh pasta should also not be re-stored once it has been opened (we sell our gluten free pasta in packs of six 1LB bags instead of our usual 3LB bags for this reason).

 

4. How Soon Can I Eat/Serve This??

 

Lastly, it’s important to know how long to cook your fresh pasta to al dente perfection. Naturally, different shapes require different cooking times. To make sure you don’t overdo it (or under-do it), keep this chart handy:

 

 

buy fresh pasta

 

Note: filled pasta (tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and gnocchi) should not be thawed before cooking. Like the gluten free fresh pasta, cook those items directly from a frozen state.

 

To download our free Pasta University E-Booklet all about cooking and handling all fresh pasta products from gemelli to gnocchi, log on to Lilly’s CustomerHub! You’ll see it posted in the Pasta University section under “E-Booklets.” If you haven’t signed up for the Hub yet, please request your free membership here.

 

 

 

 

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