5 Easy Ways to Win at Pasta

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You’d think for a product that just requires boiling that pasta would be instant win for virtually nearly every cook. Not so. Here’s 5 easy things you can do to make better pasta.

1. Your iPhone/iPod Touch/Crackberry likely has a timer function. Use it. Read the pasta box. See where it says how long to cook it? This usually a range. Set your mobile device’s timer for the lowest number – if it says “al dente perfection in 9-11 minutes” set the timer for 9 minutes. When the time is up, do a quick test. If it’s not tacky/chewy, it’s ready.

2. Using a tomato sauce? Take a few heaping spoonfuls of the sauce and add it to the water before you start cooking the pasta. This gets flavor introduced into the pasta itself, rather than just throwing a big heap of sauce on at the end. You can use less sauce this way, too, and still have tasty pasta. I tend to use half a cup or so.

3. For the first 30 seconds the pasta is in the boiling water, stir it relentlessly and quickly. This will do more for your pasta than nearly anything else.

4. Use a lot of water in a large pot. Most bad pasta comes from being cooked in a tiny pot with insufficient water.

5. Boil your water. By boiling, I mean 212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees Celsius. Yeah, I know you’re in a hurry and you want to get dinner on the table fast, but getting the pasta in the water before it’s boiling just leads to bad pasta. Boil your water. Easy way to tell? If you stir the water, the bubbling doesn’t stop for more than a second at most.


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Comments

29 responses to “5 Easy Ways to Win at Pasta”

  1. Food blogging now, your empire knows no bounds! A new professorship perhaps? ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Food blogging now, your empire knows no bounds! A new professorship perhaps? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Easy way to tell? Throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it's ready.

  4. CP: I like to add some chick broth/base to the water as well. Yum.

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  5. Good post Chris. My wife is Italian and pretty serious about the way she likes her pasta noodles cooked. Your Iphone timer tip is bang on and i use mine all the time for the same purpose.

    A general note about pasta. (This is my wife's note because by tastebuds were stunted for many many years – till I met her ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Most people overcook the pasta and it tastes like mush. NEVER EVER cook the pasta beforehand and serve it with the meal hours later. You cook the pasta right before you serve the meal.

    Many restaurants ALSO overcook their pasta. When you are paying 15-25 bucks for pasta the least they can do is cook the noodle properly. It SHOULD have a BIT of resistance to the tooth, the noodle should be somewhat firm, but not “tacky” as you say. Mushy pasta in a restaurant is a sign of poor quality control. Mushy pasta in an Italian restaurant is blasphemy.

    My wife (and generations in her family before her) has a similar trick with the pasta sauce except that she immediately puts a ladle or 2 of sauce on the pasta after it has been strained and put in a pot. She mixes the sauce into the hot pasta so that every noodle is coated with sweet sauce. THEN she puts the pasta noodles on the plates and each plate gets another ladle or two of the sauce.

    THEN – she freshly grates some Parmesan cheese over it all. Delisioso!

  6. This is great information, Chris. Far too many people underestimate the need for a lot of fast boiling water, and seasoned at that, to properly cook pasta. When I'm cooking pasta this way I also add a touch of olive oil to the water.

    Recently I learned a new way to cook pasta, that I feel should have been obvious but never thought to of, thanks to Mark Bittman of the NYT. I've been cooking my pasta 'risotto' style by introducing small amounts of water or chicken broth after a quick caramelization of the pasta in a little oil, garlic and shallot. This method requires more active participation in the process, but produces some of the most amazing pasta I've ever had.

  7. Do you carmelize the dry pasta?

  8. Yes, if I'm going to simply add tomato sauce I heat a little olive oil in my saute pan and then toast the pasta before introducing the water or stock. If I'm going to be adding a protein to finish the dish I'll saute onions and garlic then add the pasta before introducing the stock. I have a post about this if you are interested.

  9. Here you go:

    http://www.peachesenrisotto.com/risotto-style-p

    I”m a long time reader, but a first time commenter (at least I think), and I didn't want to be presumptuous or appear spammy.

  10. Easy way to tell? Throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it's ready.

  11. Easy way to tell? Throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it's ready.

  12. CP: I like to add some chick broth/base to the water as well. Yum.

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  13. CP: I like to add some chick broth/base to the water as well. Yum.

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  14. Good post Chris. My wife is Italian and pretty serious about the way she likes her pasta noodles cooked. Your Iphone timer tip is bang on and i use mine all the time for the same purpose.

    A general note about pasta. (This is my wife's note because by tastebuds were stunted for many many years – till I met her ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Most people overcook the pasta and it tastes like mush. NEVER EVER cook the pasta beforehand and serve it with the meal hours later. You cook the pasta right before you serve the meal.

    Many restaurants ALSO overcook their pasta. When you are paying 15-25 bucks for pasta the least they can do is cook the noodle properly. It SHOULD have a BIT of resistance to the tooth, the noodle should be somewhat firm, but not “tacky” as you say. Mushy pasta in a restaurant is a sign of poor quality control. Mushy pasta in an Italian restaurant is blasphemy.

    My wife (and generations in her family before her) has a similar trick with the pasta sauce except that she immediately puts a ladle or 2 of sauce on the pasta after it has been strained and put in a pot. She mixes the sauce into the hot pasta so that every noodle is coated with sweet sauce. THEN she puts the pasta noodles on the plates and each plate gets another ladle or two of the sauce.

    THEN – she freshly grates some Parmesan cheese over it all. Delisioso!

  15. Good post Chris. My wife is Italian and pretty serious about the way she likes her pasta noodles cooked. Your Iphone timer tip is bang on and i use mine all the time for the same purpose.

    A general note about pasta. (This is my wife's note because by tastebuds were stunted for many many years – till I met her ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Most people overcook the pasta and it tastes like mush. NEVER EVER cook the pasta beforehand and serve it with the meal hours later. You cook the pasta right before you serve the meal.

    Many restaurants ALSO overcook their pasta. When you are paying 15-25 bucks for pasta the least they can do is cook the noodle properly. It SHOULD have a BIT of resistance to the tooth, the noodle should be somewhat firm, but not “tacky” as you say. Mushy pasta in a restaurant is a sign of poor quality control. Mushy pasta in an Italian restaurant is blasphemy.

    My wife (and generations in her family before her) has a similar trick with the pasta sauce except that she immediately puts a ladle or 2 of sauce on the pasta after it has been strained and put in a pot. She mixes the sauce into the hot pasta so that every noodle is coated with sweet sauce. THEN she puts the pasta noodles on the plates and each plate gets another ladle or two of the sauce.

    THEN – she freshly grates some Parmesan cheese over it all. Delisioso!

  16. This is great information, Chris. Far too many people underestimate the need for a lot of fast boiling water, and seasoned at that, to properly cook pasta. When I'm cooking pasta this way I also add a touch of olive oil to the water.

    Recently I learned a new way to cook pasta, that I feel should have been obvious but never thought to of, thanks to Mark Bittman of the NYT. I've been cooking my pasta 'risotto' style by introducing small amounts of water or chicken broth after a quick caramelization of the pasta in a little oil, garlic and shallot. This method requires more active participation in the process, but produces some of the most amazing pasta I've ever had.

  17. This is great information, Chris. Far too many people underestimate the need for a lot of fast boiling water, and seasoned at that, to properly cook pasta. When I'm cooking pasta this way I also add a touch of olive oil to the water.

    Recently I learned a new way to cook pasta, that I feel should have been obvious but never thought to of, thanks to Mark Bittman of the NYT. I've been cooking my pasta 'risotto' style by introducing small amounts of water or chicken broth after a quick caramelization of the pasta in a little oil, garlic and shallot. This method requires more active participation in the process, but produces some of the most amazing pasta I've ever had.

  18. Do you carmelize the dry pasta?

  19. Do you carmelize the dry pasta?

  20. Yes, if I'm going to simply add tomato sauce I heat a little olive oil in my saute pan and then toast the pasta before introducing the water or stock. If I'm going to be adding a protein to finish the dish I'll saute onions and garlic then add the pasta before introducing the stock. I have a post about this if you are interested.

  21. Yes, if I'm going to simply add tomato sauce I heat a little olive oil in my saute pan and then toast the pasta before introducing the water or stock. If I'm going to be adding a protein to finish the dish I'll saute onions and garlic then add the pasta before introducing the stock. I have a post about this if you are interested.

  22. Here you go:

    http://www.peachesenrisotto.com/risotto-style-p

    I”m a long time reader, but a first time commenter (at least I think), and I didn't want to be presumptuous or appear spammy.

  23. Here you go:

    http://www.peachesenrisotto.com/risotto-style-p

    I”m a long time reader, but a first time commenter (at least I think), and I didn't want to be presumptuous or appear spammy.

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