Monday, April 20, 2009

Pasta cooking techniques

Pasta is so easy to make, and is such a nice base for so many dishes. Although we often think of pasta as a fall and winter dish, don’t forget about pasta salads, the perfect way to enjoy a filling meal that isn’t too hearty on a hot day. Coming up in a few weeks, I’m going to be sharing a number of thirty minute meals that will use pasta as the base. In preparation for that, I wanted to refresh us all (me too) on the dos and don’ts of pasta cooking.

I was always sure that you were supposed to add oil to the cooking water to keep the pasta from sticking… Turns out, there are better ways to accomplish that goal!

* Use a really big pot and lots of water. Pasta needs lots of room to move freely, and this is the best thing you can do to keep it from sticking!
* Don’t add oil, either to the water or afterwards. Coating your pasta with oil will cause the sauce to slide right off it and end up in a puddle underneath your pasta! Yuck.
* Don’t rinse the cooked pasta for the same reason: the starch that you are rinsing off helps the sauce to stick. The exception is pasta that will be used for cold salads. You will need to rinse it or the pasta will become too gummy when it’s cooled.
* Salt the water unless someone has a sodium problem. Pasta tastes better when cooked in salted water. That’s the best time to add the salt, not after it’s cooked.
* Don’t overcook the pasta. Start to test it a minute or so before the package says it should be done. Pasta will continue to cook after you remove it from the stove, and especially if you either leave it in the hot water or immediately add it to hot sauce.
* If you want to cook the pasta early and serve it warm or hot later, cook to barely al dente stage and remove it from the pot without throwing out the water. When you’re ready to reheat, boil the starchy water and add the pasta for just one minute, stirring it to release the strands from each other.

Image: Stock.xchng

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