I am Italian so I am naturally pasta addict.
I want to try with this first post to help you to tidy your messy pasta cupboard up.
PASTA, which kind?
There are several types of pasta according to the wheat/raw products, the technology used and the shapes to manufacture pasta.
It can be dried, namely prepared with semolina or fresh, usually prepared with eggs. It is possible to find green pasta (with spinach), red pasta (with red pepper or tomato) and the black pasta (with the squid ink) or with the addition of different grain (one of the finest is with the wheat germ).
There are the long (spaghetti, spaghettoni, linguine, bucatini, vermicelli, etc. ), the short (penne, fusilli, tortiglioni, rigatoni, etc.), the soup shapes (tubetti, ditali, ditaloni, pasta mista, etc.) and the specialities (orecchiette, paccheri, spaghetti alla chitarra, etc.).
PASTA, how to cook it?
Cooking pasta is a ritual so there is no different way to cook it.
Put a pot with cold water on the stove. When the water starts boiling, add coarse salt and pasta. Mix pasta immediately to avoid a bad sticky effect.
The cooking time is usually indicate on the pasta package. In any case pasta is ready when you cut it with a fork and the inner white part is no longer visible. Personally I prefer pasta very "al dente" so I drain it earlier. The thicker the white inner section, the more "al dente" pasta will be.
If you need to continue the cooking in a frying pan, your pasta must be drained "al dente".
PASTA, which brand?
Taste is something personal so I can say which brand I prefer.
I love De Cecco (www.dececco.it/EN) and Garofalo (www.pastagarofalo.it/us/) that are very good Italian brands, supplied everywhere.
My big passion is for Vicidomini (www.pastificiovicidomini.com ), Cocco (www.pastacocco.com) and Pastai Gragnanesi (www.pastaigragnanesi.it), top Italian brands, hard to find also in Italy unless fine deli shops (they are also pretty expensive).