Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pasta pet peeves

Been pondering that pasta article from the previous evening.  Yes, every pasta shape has its particular uses and some perform better with pancetta than with pesto and these precepts are all good to know, but the particular problem most people have with pasta pertains to preparation.

My pet particular pet peeves pertaining to pasta are plentiful- puny pan, parsimonious portions, and partially-heated pots of water.   

1) You a need a big-ass pot-  big enough to hold enough water for the amount of pasta you're going to cook.  "The bigger the better" is your rule of thumb here.

2) Fill that pot to the highest level possible while still permitting bubbling space for the water after the pasta has been presented.

3)  SALT the water.  Don't be parsimonious with your NaCL.  Your pasta water should approximate the waters of the Mediterranean.  Use good kosher salt, too.  Regular table salt contains chemicals that can lend an ICK  factor to your finished dishes.  Nobody wants an ICK factor in his/her finished dishes.

4)  Let your pasta water come to a full rolling boil before you add your noodles. (This goes for tea-making, too. There's a reason that the phrase "she can't boil water" is so derogatory to us cooking-type people.)  

5)  Once your water is BOILING, add the pasta and stir that stuff till the water is fully boiling again- this is how you keep it from sticking. (Don't put any damn oil in your cooking water. The only thing you'll accomplish doing that is pasta that glue won't stick to. Oil is a lubricant, folks- think about it.)  On a side note, one of my most-used kitchen tools is a plastic pasta measure/stirrer/server.  I don't use it to measure pasta now that I've discovered the scale, but it's the best tool I've found for stirring, separating, and serving pasta.  You don't want clumps, you gotta stir.

6)  When your pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness (I refrain from judgement here- I prefer mush to crunchy clumps of not-dente half-raw noodles), drain it in a large colander/strainer then add it directly to whatever warmed sauce you're serving it with.  If you're making a pasta salad, drain it and then rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking or follow the directions of whatever recipe you're following.  The  circa-1973 bowl of naked spag with a blob of Ragu on it ain't cuttin' it here,  buddy. 

7) Last but most important of all, if you LIKE half-raw pasta half-doused in cold sauce and no one is coming to dinner, by all means cook your pasta that way.  Cooking is personal, very personal.  Please yourself but please your friends, too.  Keep a can of that Kraft crap in the back of your fridge where no one can see it if that's what makes you happy. 


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