Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Do I Use It? Pasta Part III: Cooking

Pasta is probably one of the easiest things to cook, but many people over or undercook it. Actually a study by Barilla found that more than half of Americans cook their pasta incorrectly. Here's the keys to cooking pasta correctly.

  • Use the right size pan and enough water. Crowding the pasta can cause it to stick to the sides and get an overall "sticky" taste. You need about four quarts for every lb of pasta, and a pot to accommodate it all.
  • Use salt. Adding salt to cooking pasta is not for the taste of the pasta. Pasta does not absorb salt while cooking. Salt actually helps pasta cook evenly and keeps it from feeling "slimy." A good rule is about a teaspoon of salt for each quart of water.
  • Do not add oil to the pot. Most people do this to keep the pasta from sticking, but then sauces will not stick to the pasta either. To keep pasta from sticking, simply stir the pasta occasionally while cooking.
  • Add the pasta after the water is boiling. Pasta does not cook properly unless the water is boiling when you add it. If the water stops boiling when you add the pasta, get it boiling as quickly as possible.
  • Stir the pasta. Pasta is not a set it and forget it food. It keeps it from sticking and makes sure all pasta cooks evenly.
  • Don't overcook. Perfect pasta should be al dente, which is slightly firm. If it's really limp it's overcooked. On the other side if it is crunchy, it's under done. To get it just right, you need to check the pasta about a minute before the box instructions. To test it: taste it! When it's done turn off the heat and drain it. Pasta will continue cooking even after it's been drained. The cooking time depends on the pasta, 7-12 minutes being average. Tasting is your best bet.
  • Don't rinse. By rinsing, you rinse of the starches that will absorb the sauce you will put on it. 
  • Serve immediately. Remember pasta will keep cooking even after it has been drained, so the longer you wait the more likely it will be overcooked by time it is served
blog comments powered by Disqus