Friday, 8 July 2011

How To - Cooking Pasta

While I have not mastered the art of making pasta, I do know the secrets to cooking it.  

What you'll need:

  • A big pot with a tightly fitting lid
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Pasta

Step 1 - Fill the pot with water and add a decent whack of salt.  Put the lid on and place on the largest burner of your stove top.   
Step 2 - Turn the burner on the highest heat setting and bring water to a fast boil.
Step 3 - Put pasta in the water and stir immediately. When you add the pasta, the water temperature will drop and you need to bring it back to a boil as quickly as possible.  This is done by putting the lid back on.  Remember to take the lid off again once the water has been  brought back to the boil. 
Step 4 - Cook until pasta is al dente, stirring every minute or two as required, and drain immediately in a colander or use a slotted spoon to transfer pasta to the sauce. 

Some people believe they need to add oil to the water in order to stop the pasta sticking together, however, all the oil does is stops the sauce sticking to the pasta once they are mixed together.   So what's the secret to pasta that doesn't clump?  A REALLY BIG pot of water that is brought back to the boil very quickly after the pasta is added.  

Pasta has different cooking times, depending on whether it is fresh or dried.   Fresh pasta will cook in as little as 2-3 minutes and dried pasta can take anywhere from 7-12 minutes.

Al dente describes pasta that is 'slightly under cooked' so it retains its shape and integrity without being crunchy.  There is a very small window between under cooked and over cooked pasta and the best way to know if the pasta is cooked properly is to take some out of the pot and try it!  

Another way to know if pasta is cooked al dente is to throw it at a wall, if it sticks, it's cooked!  This is also a great way to strip a spaghetti sized piece of paint from the wall, as I discovered to my mother's horror when I was 15.  

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