Join the Pasta Patrol!
Have you slurped spaghetti? Devoured ditali? Relished rotelle? If you like pasta, you probably have, and loved it!
There are more than 150 different pasta shapes--with all kinds of neat names. Let's take a noodle tour.
MIXIN' UP A MESS
Inside, the wheat flour is mixed with water to form a tough dough, and eggs are stirred in. Ever seen green or red pasta? Sometimes spinach or tomato powders are added for extra taste and nutrition.
Trucks or railroad cars deliver coarse semolina (seh-mo-LEE-nah) flour ground from durum wheat. Pasta factories use huge hoses to suck the flour inside--don't get caught!
THE BIG SQUEEZE
Now the dough is ready for shaping. It is forced through holes in large metal discs, called dies. Different shaped holes create different kinds of pasta. Round or oval holes produce solid rods like spaghetti or vermicelli (ver-muh-CHEL-ee). A steel pin in the center of the hole makes the dough come out hollow, like macaroni. Noodles and bow ties are cut out of flat sheets of dough. (It's like using a cookie cutter.)
A LONG DRY SPELL
Now it's time to dry the pasta. This is one of the most important steps. If it dries too fast, it might break. But too slow and it might spoil. Pasta makers use drying machines up to 320 feet long. That's longer than a football field! In the past, pasta was hung on outdoor racks to dry in the sun. Some pasta makers still use drying racks. They say slow drying makes the pasta taste better.
A NAPKIN PLEASE
Finally the pasta is shuttled to the packaging area, where it is boxed, wrapped, and shipped to you. And that means it's time for the best part of our tour--the eating part! Remember, there are more than 150 different pasta shapes to try. Better get started right away!
HERE IT IS: Is Pasta Good for You?
Take your time ...
How About a Couple of Hints?
* Pasta is loaded with complex carbohydrates, which food experts say are the body's best source of energy. (It's better to burn carbohydrates than protein, which is needed to build muscles.)
* Pasta has heaping helpings of vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, which help the body turn carbohydrates into energy.
Got It Yet? Need One More Hint?
* Pasta is very low in fat and sodium.
So What Do You Think? Is Pasta Good for You?
All together now!
How did all those pasta shapes get their names? Easy. Many of the names are just Italian words for what the pasta looks like. Here are a few that you may have heard, or had.
Cappelletti (cap-pah-LET-tee) means "little hats." Ditali (DEE-tah-lee) means "thimbles." Fettuccine (fet-uh-CHEEN-ee) means "little ribbons." Gnocchi (NYO-chee) means "lump" or "clot." Rigati (re-GAH-tee) means "ridges." Rotelle (ro-TEL-luh) means "little wheels." Vermicelli means "little worms."
The word "pasta" comes from an old Greek word for paste. (Remember how pasta makers mix water and eggs? Get it?)
by Eve Carr * Illustrated by Sarah Beise