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Perfect Pasta

Cooking tips for the caring cook.

Perfect Pasta

Pointers for Perfect Pasta

  • Per pound of pasta, bring 4 quarts water to the boil; some chefs recommend 6 to 8. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then add 1-1 /2 tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta.
  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the water only when cooking stuffed fresh (not dried) pasta -- it helps reduce friction and keeps the pasta from bursting.
  • When the water returns to a rolling boil, add the pasta all at once, stir, and cover the pot briefly, just to hurry the water back to a boil. Then cook, uncovered, stirring frequently.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander. Do not rinse it! Return it to the hot pot or place it in a large, warm bowl, and toss it immediately with the hot sauce. If the sauce is not quite ready, you can toss the pasta with a few tablespoons of olive oil and cover the pot or bowl.

Colorful pastas

  • Throw a spoon into boiling pasta and it won't boil over.
  • Keep pasta water from bubbling over by spraying the pan first with nonstick spray.
  • To prevent pasta from boiling over and sticking together, add some butter or oil and salt. Always add the pasta to the water after it has boiled, not before.
  • When making delicious pasta dishes, be sure to choose a pasta shape and sauce that complement each other. Thin, delicate pastas like angel hair or thin spaghetti, should be served with light, thin sauces. Thicker pasta shapes, like fettuccine, work well with heavier sauces. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges like mostaccioli or radiatore, are perfect for chunkier sauces.
  • Spaghetti noodles too long? After cooking the noodles, run a pizza cutter across it on a plate to make neatly cut pieces of pasta. This works great for kids.
  • When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes together is one delicious combination.
  • Add herbal flavor to pasta while it cooks. Put a large handful of fresh herbs in the bottom of a pasta pan, then put a pasta insert in the pan. Add water, heat it to boiling and cook the pasta. When the pasta is done, drain it and discard the herbs.

Pasta Notes

Cooking pasta al dente, or firm to the bite, preserves some of the vitamins and minerals that are lost into the cooking water with longer cooking times.

If you are making pasta for a cold salad, rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Dry it well before dressing it, as an oil-based dressing will slide right off wet pasta.

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