We had meat balls with tagliatelli this evening with home-made tomato sauce and a blue cheese sauce on top. As I cooked it I pondered whether I ever noticed the dried pasta was so inferior to the fresh pasta we occasionally buy at greater expense, and further, why fresh pasta appears only to be available in spagetti, tagliatelli or similar forms. I can't say I've ever seen fresh pasta shells or the other shapes it comes in dried. Then I thought it's something celebrity chefs rave over that we should make ourselves, but I've never done. Do you make your own pasta? Is it noticably better than the bought stuff? I have to confess, that if you say yes, and tempt me to buy a pasta machine I'd probably be doing something to the mix in a vain attempt to take it to a higher level. Is pasta better enjoyed in Itali? Certainly, when I visited Rome a year or so ago and was given a dish of simple pasta in arrabiata sauce to eat whilst I studied the menu I felt it was far superior to anything I've ever cooked myself or dined on elsewhere. To be frank, although I opted for veal from the menu as my main course, mostly as it's virtually impossible to get in the UK, I'd have happily had another plate of the appetiser instead. My mother wasn't fond of pasta and it never featured in any of the dishes she cooked. I can hear her words now ringing in my ears "I'll come to this restaurant with you, but I don't want any of that macaroni stuff." She was an excellent cook herself ,albeit her specialty was traditional British food but I'm not sure she enjoyed the pleasures of dining as we have become accustomed to. I once took her to an excellent fish restaurant in Whitstable where the decor was intentionally basic. By this, I mean no carpets, gaps in the floorboards so you had a glimpse of the tanks in the cellar below where they grew oysters, plain wooden tables and chairs and dim lighting. Sadly, she didn't particularly enjoy the experience, complaining on the way home she liked to see what she was eating. Fortunately the clams and pasta dish they excel in wasn't on special that evening. But I digress... Nowadays, pasta features regularly on the menu in most people's homes in one form or another, yet as I've intimated, I don't think the British know enough about it yet. What do we need to know? what are the essentials, other than not over-cooking it?