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A pasta drying rack is a kitchen tool which has been designed specifically for the purpose of drying pasta, although such racks can potentially be used for other kitchen tasks at well. For people who like to make pasta at home, a pasta drying rack can be a very useful thing to have around, as it allows them to make large batches of pasta and dry the unused portion for another day. Kitchen supply stores sometimes carry these racks, and they can also be purchased through specialty purveyors who focus on pasta and accessories; it is also possible to improvise one in a pinch.
There are a number of different styles of pasta drying rack, but in all cases the basic design is the same. The goal is to promote the even circulation of air around pasta as it dries, ensuring that it dries all the way through so that it will not mold or rot while in storage. Because pasta dough often contains egg, it is important for the finished pasta to dry completely before it is put away.
One version of a pasta drying rack looks rather like a screen for a window. In this case, the pasta is laid out across the screen and the screen is propped up in an area with plenty of ventilation. The pasta may be periodically stirred or turned to ensure that all of the pasta dries evenly, and to prevent pieces from sticking together. This style of drying rack can also be used to dry fruit and vegetable slices.
A pasta drying rack can also look more like a dishrack, in which case the pasta is draped across the rack to dry. Some people like to coil their pasta for drying so that it will compact more easily for storage, in which case they may use a pasta drying rack which includes projecting dowels around which loops of pasta can be strung. When pasta is coiled or nested for drying, clear circulation is crucial, to ensure that the core of the pasta dries out completely.
If you've made pasta and you don't have a drying rack handy, there are a few things you can use. Cooling racks for baked goods, for example, can stand in for a drying rack, as can towel racks. In a pinch, spread a clean towel or flour sack out on a flat surface and then lay the pasta out on that; it may take longer to dry than with a rack, but the pasta will eventually dry all the way through, especially if you hang the cloth up like a hammock.