mercoledì 20 febbraio 2008

Pasta Perfection

Pasta is a healthy, affordable and easy to prepare meal choice for many busy families. Whole wheat and other enriched varieties are available for the extra health-conscious. Because dried pasta keeps so long and there is such a variety of dishes you can prepare using pasta, it can be a perfect choice for everything from a quick weekday meal to an elegant special occasion feast. Unfortunately, some burgeoning cooks learning to master the art of Italian cooking have difficulty preparing pasta properly. Follow these tips to cook your next pasta dish to perfection.

Be sure to use plenty of water in an adequately sized pot to give the pasta room to move around. This and frequent stirring will help prevent your pasta from sticking. It is actually not necessary to add oil to the pot if you use enough water and stir frequently. Adding salt to the water will give the pasta a little flavor and help the pasta absorb your sauce.

Do not rinse your pasta after cooking. Rinsing washes the starch away, which will also help your sauce stick to the pasta. Strain for a few minutes after cooking, and then mix immediately with sauce or olive oil to avoid clumping. If you are using a drier sauce, you can add a bit of the water you used to cook the pasta – the starch remaining in the water will help it stick to your pasta better.

The main problem cooks encounter when trying to prepare pasta is that their pasta becomes somewhat slimy and mushy. This is usually a result of cooking the pasta too long. The perfect pasta is referred to as “al dente,” which literally means “to the tooth,” or slightly firm when bitten down on. The phrase actually comes from the trick cooks use of biting their pasta in a certain way to determine if it is cooked to perfection.

This mushy pasta problem can also occur if you put your pasta in the water before the water comes to a complete boil, again resulting in overcooking. Wait until your water is at a rolling boil, then place your pasta in the pot and stir immediately and almost continuously until the pasta becomes soft enough that it sinks into the water. Then cover the pot just long enough to reach a boil again, and then uncover and begin timing. Start checking your pasta to see if it is “al dente” several minutes before cooking time ends, because recommended cooking times given on packages can vary from what is actually needed based on how much pasta you are cooking at one time.

If you follow these simple tips for your next pasta dish, your guests will be asking you what your pasta cooking secret is! Don’t forget to check back here or at to pick up your copy of The Italian Kitchen, where you will find fabulous pasta recipes that will be sure to impress any guest.

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