Pasta is one of the most versatile bases that the Western culinary culture has developed. Just by heading over to google, one can see the huge selection.
It is most definitely possible to spend months looking through different types of pasta. Instead, of focusing on pasta, I’d like to spend a few days focusing on what has become my goto dish. Many who know me will always expect pasta when I cook for a crowd. But refocusing on my introduction, pasta is a “base”. Although there are multiple types of pasta and the variety itself is head spinning. To talk about pasta, we must consider that pasta itself cannot be a dish. Instead, it is the combination of pasta, sauce, and method that makes the delicacy most, if not all, of us have come to know. More after the break
To start off my pasta series, let us consider the basic methods in cooking pasta. When I say cooking, I refer to the actual process of getting the noodles cooked; not the sauces or any other process.
First, we must provide ample water. Although some may disagree, it is a necessity in order to to prevent water from overflowing, which by the way should never happen(more on this later). There should be at least 2 quarts of water per pound of pasta being cooked.
Next, salt the water. Do not simply dash in two pinches of salt. Instead it should almost be as salty as salt water. This is going to be the only time you are going to be able to flavor the pasta as it absorbs water during the cooking process.
After the water boils, place the pasta in a pot and stir. A key step here is to cook the pasta without a lid. This prevents overflowing pasta water and allows the water temperature to be more stable. When cooking with the lid on it is highly likely for the outside of the pasta to overcook instead of a thoroughly cooked pasta. Depending on the type of pasta, cooking time could vary anywhere between 4 to 15 minutes.
You should drain the pasta immediately after cooking. At this time it is impulsive for some to rinse the pasta. DON’T. By rinsing away the heat, you will also be rinsing away the starches on the outer layer of pasta, an integral agent for the pasta and sauce to bind. As I will be covering through the next few days, the starches in the water and on the outer layer of the pasta serve as a principle binding agent and helps create that restaurant style pasta. The only general exception to this is when you do not intend to combine the pasta and sauce immediately after cooking. In most cases, however, don’t rinse the pasta, it makes a better final product.
After that, you are pretty much all set. Your pasta is cooked, and you can move on through the process. In most cases, it is better to undercook the pasta by a minute or two. Let it finish off in the sauce! While some believe in mixing the pasta in a separate bowl, I find that allowing the pasta to finish up in the sauce allows the starches to do its magic. Not only does the sauce thoroughly coat each strand of chewy goodness, it allows you to control the thickness of the sauce.
But before we go into anymore details about the sauce, lets end the discussion of cooking pasta here. Making the perfect pasta dish starts with a good foundation. As you can see, it really isn’t that difficult; a few things here and there and you are on your way. Although it might seem daunting at first, after a few times it really just becomes second nature. Look forward to my post on the basic sauces tomorrow! Any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments section!