Angel hair pasta is a long, thin noodle with a round shape. It is also known as capellini or capelli d'angelo. The extremely fine pasta is excellent with light, delicate sauces as well as seasonal fresh vegetables. Several traditional Italian recipes call for this pasta, and it is readily available in most grocery stores. It can also be made by hand at home, although producing pasta of adequate thinness requires time and patience.
The pasta strongly resembles spaghetti, another long, thin, round pasta. Angel hair pasta, however, is much more fine. Spaghetti can hold up to heartier stocks and sauces that would overwhelm the delicate noodles. Angel hair pasta can also be used in Asian recipes that call for fine, thin noodles, typically fried in nests as a base for a dish.
The most basic angel hair pasta is made with durum semolina wheat, water, and salt. Durum semolina is a hard wheat, which will yield a slightly chewy, strong pasta. Soft wheats tend to break down during the cooking process, leading to mushy pasta with an unpleasant texture. Flavored pasta with additions like pepper and lemon, sun-dried tomato, or spinach is also available. These ingredients are typically ground up into a fine flour or paste, so that they will not interrupt the texture of the pasta.
When making pasta at home, most people add egg to the pasta dough, making a richer dough with a sunny golden color. To make angel hair, the dough needs to be rolled out extremely fine. A manual pasta machine can make the process much more rapid and enjoyable. Many pasta machines also have cutting attachments for cutting pasta, or the dough can be laid out on a flat surface and cut into very thin pieces. Home made angel hair will lack the rounded edges of the commercially manufactured variety, but it is still delicious. The finished pasta can be cooked for three to five minutes and tossed with a sauce, or dried for use later.
Sauces for angel hair pasta should be light, rather than dense and chunky. The pasta can be also be tossed with ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, artichoke hearts, smoked salmon, roasted garlic, or basil. Seafood also goes well with angel hair, and the noodles are also delicious plain with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.