Armoniche pasta (pronounced ahr-moh-NEE-kay) is a durum wheat pasta in the form of wavy half ruffles curved around a smooth cylindrical core. Similar in size and shape to radiatore, armoniche pasta resembles small harmonicas. As a medium to large, ruffled noodle, armoniche pasta is excellent for serving with hearty sauces and in pasta salads. The folds capture ingredients in more substantial sauces, so it is suitable for serving with chunky Bolognaise, mushroom, puttanesca, and other coarsely textured sauces.
Durum wheat, used to produce armoniche pasta, is one of the hardest wheats. Its high protein and high gluten content are ideal for pasta, contributing elasticity and firmness of bite. The yellow endosperm of durum wheat, ground into semolina, gives pasta its characteristic pale gold color.
When selecting dried pasta, look for pasta without cracks or light or dark spots. The color should be uniform golden yellow. Cracks in the pasta may cause it to break apart during cooking. Armoniche pasta has wavy ruffles. Although the ruffles may be even or uneven in size, to ensure even cooking, the pasta itself should be relatively uniform.
Armoniche pasta may be found in red, green, and other colors. The colored pasta is produced by the addition of vegetable purees such as tomato and spinach. Colored pasta is especially attractive in cold pasta salads.
To cook armoniche pasta and other dried pastas, use a large enough pot to accommodate the desired amount of pasta. A crowded pot will result in sticky, clumped-together noodles. A large, tall stockpot is ideal for cooking amounts greater than 1 pound (455 g) of pasta at one time. Fill the pot no more than three-quarters full of water. When the water comes to a boil, add salt. A good rule of thumb is 5 quarts (4.7 L) of water and 1 tablespoon (18 g) salt per 1 pound (455 g) pasta. Do not add oil to the water.
Be sure to follow package directions when cooking. Armoniche pasta, like all pastas, should be cooked just until al dente, or “to the tooth.” Do not make the mistake of overcooking. Armoniche pasta is best when it is tender but a bit firm still, enabling it to stand up to the weight of the sauce it will be served with. Overcooking the pasta will result in an unpleasant mushy texture.
Pasta is at its best when cooked just before serving, but it is possible to prepare it in advance. If you wish to cook and hold pasta for more than a few minutes, simply prepare as above, drain well, toss with a little olive oil, and pour into a large resealable plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator. When ready to use, immerse in boiling water for a minute or until heated through, and drain. Be careful not to cook too long or pasta will become starchy and overcooked.
If serving right away, drain armoniche pasta and toss with sauce. Do not rinse pasta. The natural starches in the pasta help the sauce to adhere more readily to the wavy ruffles. For this same reason, unless preparing pasta in advance, avoid adding oil or butter before adding sauce. The oil will make the ruffles of the armoniche pasta “slippery” and the sauce will not cling as well.
Dried pasta that is kept in a cool, dry place will stay good for about a year. Uncooked fresh pasta must be refrigerated and used by the expiration date on the package. Homemade fresh pasta should be refrigerated and used within 3 days, frozen for up to a month, or dried and stored on the shelf as dried pasta. Once cooked, pasta must be refrigerated and should be consumed within 3 to 5 days.