Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pasta Knowledge You Should Know

It seems that everyone loves pasta and pasta dishes.  So if you're going to be cooking and serving pasta, you should probably know a few things that will help.

In today's world, you can buy pasta in a dry form. as fresh and even frozen.  The costs are different and each is not necessarily offered everywhere.  Buy and use what fits your budget and location.  Pasta is also available in many different shapes.  There is no one perfect pasta for everything, so have a mixture of pastas available in your home.  A few things to remember about picking your pasta.  Thin smooth pastas are best with light smooth sauces.  A heavier sauce requires a heavier pasta and flat pastas are for cheese or cream sauces.  For the chunkier sauces, you want to use shells, larger hollow tubes or curlier types of pasta.  Remember, that the "Pasta Police" aren't going to break down your door and fine you if it isn't done right.  You're the one eating it, so mix, match and eat what you like.

In cooking pasta it is very important to use a lot of water.  That means you need to use a BIG pot.  It would be great if you had a 2 gallon pot cook your pasta.  A pasta pot with a removable strainer is great.  For a pound of pasta, you should have a gallon and a half of water.  But just follow the package directions and you will be fine.  Always start with COLD water and cover it with a lid to get the boil started sooner.  Once you have a good boil going, add SALT and then the pasta.  The pasta will give you better flavor doing this but if you're watching salt intake, omit it.  Once the pasta is added, don't use a lid again and stir the pasta several times during the cooking process.  Especially in the beginning.  This keeps the pasta from sticking together or to the pot.

It is best to remove the pasta from the water about a minute for package directions says it is done.  This way the pasta is a little al dente.  The pasta will continue to cook when added to the hot sauce.

The next part is different for many people but the Italian way is to mix the pasta into the sauce.  If the mixture is too thick, they just add a little of the pasta water to it.  This helps thin while not diluting taste.  A main reason for mixing the pasta and sauce immediately is so the pasta can absorb the sauces flavor quickly.  They don't serve it separate like many others.  You may see the pasta put onto a platter and then topped with the sauce.  This allows the sauce to run down through the pasta and keeps it from clumping.

Many people will serve the pasta in one bowl and the sauce in another.  This usually causes the pasta to clump together.  Those that serve it this way will add olive oil or butter to the pasta to keep it from clumping.  It does do that but it also makes it much harder for the sauce to stick to the pasta.  If you want to serve them separate, then add a little of the sauce to the pasta to keep it from sticking together.  Then let people add more sauce as they desire.

The only time you ever rinse pasta is if the pasta is going to be used for a cold dish.  Then you want to use cold water to rinse and then drain well.  Once you have done this you can continue with making a pasta salad or some other cold pasta dish.  The reason you don't rinse pasta is because it removes the starches from the pasta that help the sauces cling.

Always remember to top the dish with your favorite cheese (grated or shredded) just before service and have more available on the table.

Thursday and Friday will have some pasta recipes for you to try.  Please remember to pass this information on to family and friends.  Have a great day!

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