How to cook a perfect pasta
How to tell the differences between cooking artisan pasta and industrial pasta? If we ignore some basic aspects and treat them in the same way, we might not be able to make a distinction. Many people have less appropriate habits of cooking pasta due to lack of authentic advice.
Often times consumers don't realize the differences of a great artisan pasta because accidentally they cover up its qualities by wrong cooking methods. You will read soon what those common mistakes are.
This post is not referred to a specific recipe, rather a basic guideline to cook pasta correctly and apply this method to a large variety of recipes.
Although it's also interesting to understand the technical differences between artisan and industrial production, we reserve those details for other posts in our blog.
Note by the word "correctly" we mean according to italian tradition and customs.
As a premise we want to clarify that the result of a pasta dish depends on the consumer's goal. That means it can be simply used for elementary nourishment or, as in the wine universe, it can be used for emotional taste experience through the senses of its organoleptic characteristics.
In this article we are referring to those who want to taste the best of their pasta. And you don't need to be a chef! Simply adopt these basic habits.
First off, the ingredients we are talking about here are:
dried pasta, water and salt.
A general reference for the proportion of these ingredients is this one:
for 100 grams of pasta, consider 1 liter of water and 10 grams of salt.
One person's portion is about 100 grams.
For instance if you are making a dish for two people, you will need 2 liters of water, 20 grams of salt and 200 grams of pasta.
This proportion is just a reference for those who don't feel comfortable by eyeballing the quantities. Many people, include ourselves, never really measure the quantity of water and salt.
Coming to practice, these are the steps:
1 - prepare a pot with the water, place the lid on and bring it to a boil.
2 - once the water is near to boil add the salt, this helps a little bit to speed up the boiling point. Anyhow, if you want to avoid the risk of forgetting the salt, you can add it since the beginning.
3 – immerse the pasta into the water when it's fully boiling and stir gently for several second. Place the lid on the pot to bring the water back to boiling temperature and then remove it or place it partially, when the water start to boil again. Remember pasta needs a vigorous gurgle in order to cook evenly and avoid being clumped at the bottom of the pot or being stick to pasta itself.
4 – keep stirring once a while and, based on the cooking time written on the package, taste the pasta one or two minutes before fully cooked to estimate how long time is left.
Fully cooked means, when braking the pasta, the white row inside (so called soul) disappears, or almost.
5 - once the pasta is ready (actually earlier than ready, read below), drain it out from the pot and do not rinse with fresh water (see ahead the reason why), at this point your pasta is ready to be dressed with sauce.
6 - the dressing step is generally made in a pan where the pasta is stirred for a minute or two together with the sauce.
That's it! These steps are pretty much all about the basic cooking method.
But we like to share further suggestions and reasons why some steps have to be made in certain ways.
- You don't need to add oil into the water, some people instead tend to do this step to avoid getting the pasta stick to each other or clump at the bottom of the pot. In reality there is no need of adding oil when the quantity of water is enough for the pasta to move freely and it is properly boiling.
- To avoid water spilling out of the pot during boiling the pasta, keep the lid partially opened or remove it.
- It's important to stop boiling the pasta before fully cooked because, being hot, the pasta continues to soften and eventually overcook, especially when it has to be stirred in the pan with the sauce. It's always better to stop boiling the pasta several minutes earlier to control a perfect "al dente"! That is the perfect consistency, firm to bite.
- Rinsing the pasta with fresh water after boiled is not necessary, instead it's very important to keep the starch on the pasta. Note, during the boiling process, the pasta releases starch into the water, and when you move the pasta to the pan, you will be adding a bit of cooking water, the function here is to thicken and glue the sauce to the pasta, obtaining in this way a natural creamy effect. So if you use a colander, remember to save a cup of cooking water every time, it can be so crucial.
- The sauce should always be reheated before stirring together with the pasta, avoid cold temperature (for example a bottle of sauce just taken out from the refrigerator).
- Remember pasta is best enjoyed when it's hot, keep in mind that some recipes with little or not sauce (aglio e olio, carbonara, burro e salvia, bottarga) tend to get cold faster than those with abundant quantity of sauce (tomato sauce, ragù, lasagne, etc).
- Grated cheese? Oh yes, for many recipes, the best grated cheese to match with pasta is Parmigiano (in english Parmesan) and we always recommend to look for the authentic Parmigiano Reggiano DOP.
Some other tomato sauce recipes, for example, will match a mature sheep cheese instead, called "Pecorino" or in the case of a carbonara, you want to grate "Pecorino Romano" cheese.
In conclusion, if we take the best artisan pasta and boil it in very little water, with low heat, overcook it, flush it with fresh water, then dress it with cold sauce and even let the pasta cool down on the plate... we definitely can't tell any difference between artisan and industrial!
On the other hand if we serve the industrial pasta in a perfect way, we can't never obtain the same tasting experience than the artisan one, because the aroma and nutrition are not the same as artisan pasta.
Now with these habits in mind, you are ready to surprise your guests and yourself for a tasty and "al dente" pasta dish!
Until next dish,