By Harold McGee
One of the simplest preparations of cereal flour gave us one of the most popular foods in the world: pasta. The word is Italian for “paste” or “dough,”and pasta is nothing more than wheat flour and water combined to make a clay-like mass, formed into small pieces, and boiled in water until cooked through—not baked, as are nearly all other doughs. Noodle comes from the German word for the same preparation, and generally refers to pasta-like preparations made outside the Italian tradition. The keys to pasta’s appeal are its moist, fine, satisfyingly substantial texture and its neutral flavor, which makes it a good partner for a broad range of other ingredients.