Introduction

Boiling

Boiling

Pasta should be cooked “al dente” which translates from Italian as “to the tooth”. This means that it should remain tender crisp before use. If you cook pasta too long, though, it gets unpleasantly gummy.

• The main rule for preparing pasta is to keep the balance of water, pasta and salt. At least 1 liter of water and 10 grams of salt is required per 100 grams of pasta. The water should be salted before the pasta goes in – right after the water boils. If you do it a bit later, the pasta will absorb salt in a wrong way.

Salt increases the boiling point of the water and enhances the flavour of the pasta.

• Good quality pasta will not exude much starch in the boiling water, and after boiling it will not tear, stick together or clump.

• Pasta should be added only to the fast boiling water in the very center of the pot. After adding the pasta to the fast boiling water, you should turn up the heat to bring the water back to a fast boil. Do not cover the pot with a lid during cooking. Stir pasta every 3 minutes.

• Do not add olive oil to the boiling water: it will make pasta slippery, and the sauce will run down it without being absorbed.

• Always mind the recommended cooking time indicated on the pack. Two minutes before the pasta is ready, taste it and adjust the cooking time for hardness. If cooked correctly, the pasta will be soft outside and a bit hard inside.

• Pasta should not be rinse in cold water because the natural starch it has exuded helps sauce be absorbed. Besides, rinsing will decrease the content of useful substances and vitamins contained in pasta and will disturb its temperature balance.

• In Italy they cook pasta 3 minutes less, then put it in a stewpot with already prepared sauce and bring it to doneness by letting sauce and all its flavors be absorbed properly.

• In general, cooks in southern Italy often dump the pasta into the pan where the sauce is cooking and mix the two together there. This is a matter of personal preference and convenience (your frying pan may not be large enough to accommodate the latter technique, for example), though in general I toss fresh pasta in a bowl and dried pasta in the pan.

• Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta. (That’s about three-quarters full.) Pasta needs room to move or it’ll clump.

• Once the cooking water comes to a boil, season it with a palmful of salt (about 2 tablespoons) to enhance the subtle flavor of the pasta.

• Cook the pasta, uncovered, at a rolling boil and stir it often to keep it from sticking.

• If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking, undercook the pasta by 1/3 of the cooking time specified on the package. When the water starts boiling, lower the flame so that the bubbles are small. A big, rolling boil will break more delicate pasta such as ravioli or tortellini.

• Don’t boil pasta in a covered pot, as it will quickly overflow. Quick tip: Just leave your wooden spoon in the pot to prevent spillovers.

• Never put pasta in a pot that isn’t boiling, as this will only leave you with a gooey, overdone noodle.

• It’s never a good idea to boil two different varieties of pasta together unless they’re similar in size and shape, due to varied cooking times. It also looks kind of wacky to have spaghetti and penne mixed together.

• Unlike dried pasta, which is most frequently made of 100% semolina, fresh pasta is made with an egg-enriched dough. As such, it is more delicate than hearty dried pasta. To cook fresh pasta, follow the procedure for cooking dried pasta, but decrease the cooking time to 2-3 minutes, and always taste to make sure the pasta has the texture you want.

• Finish fresh pasta in the pot, just as you would dried pasta, but be gentle in stirring since the pasta is more delicate.

• To cook frozen ravioli or tortellini, follow the instructions for cooking dried pasta. Once you add the frozen pasta to the boiling water, it will take a minute or two for the water to come back up to a boil. Once the water has returned to a boil, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Once the pasta floats, it is ready to be drained.