Preface: Read this article to learn importance of pasta and way to cook it.
In its various forms, pasta has become a part of almost every country. Some say that Marco Polo brought idea of pasta from China to Europe, but archaeological evidence has shown that it had been in both places long before then, so after doing a great deal of study, I found that nobody really knows for sure what culture pasta truly came from (if it was just one).
Many people think of pasta as regular egg noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, and lasagna, but once you start looking around, there are many more completely different varieties. In Asia alone, although some of their noodles are wheat-based, they use a great amount of rice noodles, but also some with a variety of other starches. These other starches include such things as potato flour, buckwheat flour, and mungbean starch, and may be eaten either hot or cold. Noodles in Asia are generally cooked by steaming, stir-frying, and even deep frying. They also have a large variety of different dumplings, which would also classify as pasta. Germans have their spaetzle, which is made with flour, eggs, water (or milk), and salt, made very soft and pushed through a colander into boiling water, then tossed with butter sauce, soups, and other dishes. In Poland they have their pierogi, half-moon shaped pork filled dumplings.
The most common Italian-style pasta refers to a dough made with semolina (durum wheat) flour mixed with water or milk and sometimes eggs. Semolina is superior flour that is used because it doesn't absorb too much water and is perfect when properly cooked al dente (just slightly firm). The most common source of pasta is dried, and when looking for best brand of dried pasta, even Italians in Italy admit that Barilla is best brand. When I was in Italy, some friends I made there were surprised that Barilla was popular here since it is so good.
It's really not all that difficult to make fresh pasta either. All you need to buy is a pasta roller and few basic ingredients. Generally, with fresh pasta, eggs are used as liquid to better hold more delicate pasta together. You can also experiment by adding other ingredients, such as adding herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, or even some sweeter ingredients for a dessert pasta. When you add extra ingredients, be careful with how much liquid you add to pasta, as with many ingredients (such as spinach) you will need less liquid. Since pasta is rolled out as small as it is, it's best to puree added ingredients rather than leaving them chunky. Contrary to dried pasta's almost indefinite shelf life, fresh pasta is best only within a few days of making it unless you freeze it or dry it yourself. Your pasta roller should come with directions on how to roll out pasta. You can cut pasta into a variety of shapes and sizes, and even make fillings and form pasta into raviolis, tortellini, or other common (and not so common) shapes.