Aug 23, 2011

The pasta lineup

Many of my formative years were spent immersed in a melting pot of Italian and Mexican culture and cuisine.  And I've always been a macaroni girl (it's as patriotic as Yankee Doodle, right?  I mean he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni...)


Apparently the pasta thing really stuck.   It's why low-carb diets and I are star-crossed and doomed to fail.

In my pantry at any given time, you will find - without fail - several basic dry pastas, including elbow macaroni (big and/or small), spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagna and penne pasta. These days, the last three are whole wheat or tri-colored as we try to eat a little healthier. With those staples (plus a few cans and jars of tomato products) at hand, I know I can throw SOMETHING for dinner no matter what.

Then there are the seasonal pastas: ditalini in the colder months (for pasta e fagioli) and rotini or fusili in the summer, for pasta salad. The other day I found squiggly radiatori for BLT pasta salad since true fusili (spiral not corkscrew) is rare in these parts.

Occasional guest stars include bowtie, shells (big and small), linguini, mezze penne, mostaccioli which means "little moustache" and is a little hard to get these days); gnocchi, large egg noodles and Amish noodles (small and big), orzo and manicotti.

For whatever reason, wagon wheel pasta has never been on my list of go-to pastas.  Maybe because most of my encounters with it have been mushy.  But I hear Barilla has a miniature version of rotelle or ruot, so maybe I'll have to give it a try one of these days.

In case you're wondering if I skipped it, no - ravioli is not  found on my pantry shelves, ever.  Not since my kids outgrew canned pasta, and they sometimes ate it despite my groans.  I'm a snob when it comes to ravioli - it must be fresh (or frozen) and preferably homemade.  Occasionally I'll pick up a package of fresh tortellini.  Most of the fillings aren't quite what I'd put in my own, but I'm too lazy to make it myself.

I guess you can tell, we love our pasta, in pretty much all shapes and sizes.

While typing this post, I took a peek in my pantry.  And this is what my pasta shelf (yes, I have a shelf of pasta - doesn't everyone?) looked like.

The "just-moved-in" look
Oh dear.

I confess, I can get a little gung-ho about pantry organization. Surely it didn't look like that when we moved in a few months ago, did it?

But daily use does tend to wear off that just-moved-in, everything-in-its-place look.  A box or container comes out, then goes back in; new boxes come home and get tucked in wherever they'll fit.

Before you know it, it's a jumble.

After I got a look at it through the objective eye of the camera lens, I did a quick assessment of what I had already, determined the number of various sizes I would need, and made a dash to the store to pick up 6 or 7 canisters to put everything in its own matching stackable storage container.

Now it looks like this.

Having everything matchy-matchy isn't particularly frugal or necessary.  But before you dismiss it as frivolous (and a little OCD), consider these reasons for using a set of mix-and-match modular storage containers:
  • This is front-and-center when you open my pantry.  It needs to stay tidy, regardless of how I do it.  Otherwise, I can't find what I'm looking for and wind up buying a second or third box of this-or-that.  Been there, done it.
  • These stacking modules by Rubbermaid are designed to create tidy and accessible pantry storage.  Everything is the width of the shelf and can be stacked.  No more peeking and peering around the front row to see what lurks back behind.
  • Aesthetics and accessibility aside, with everything out of boxes and sealed up, if critters should appear in one tub of pasta, they can't easily migrate to the others.  (Unless you cook your pasta almost as soon as you bring it home, you are bound to encounter some hibernating stowaways at some point.  Gross, but true.)
  • I can even argue for cost-effectiveness.  A box of pasta can run anywhere from $1 to $6, depending on brand, type and size.  The containers were a one-time investment of about $4 each.  Cutting down on accidental over-buying and eliminating the risk of having to clear out all the pasta if it gets buggy can pay for the containers over time.  (That's my rationale, and I'm sticking to it.)
So now that you've seen mine, do tell:  what are your must-have pasta shapes? And what do you store them in?

Happy cooking!