Lasagna, spaghetti, rotini, penne, fettuccine-the names are delicious in themselves. Unfortunately, incorrect preparation of pasta can render it less than delicious. In fact, gummy or tough pasta can ruin an otherwise perfectly prepared dish. The most wonderful sauce cannot make up for pasta that is hard or too mushy.
So how can you produce the perfect pasta every time? The three basic properties of pasta preparation are dry or fresh pasta, water and heat. Understanding how these three relate can make your efforts a success.
Stand facing the pasta section at your grocery market and you will soon see that you have a variety of choices to make when it comes to choosing the pasta for your next meal. You can choose between shapes, colors, enriched and even dry and fresh.
Shape is Important
The shape of the pasta is important to the dish you are preparing. Particular styles are made to mix well and hold sauces and cheeses to the best advantage. Size, shape and thickness make all the difference in the world. Lasagna would not work with elbow macaroni or vermicelli replacing the wide, thick noodles.
The Best Pasta for the Job
Cooking the Pasta
Once you are at a rolling boil, a boil that cannot be interrupted when stirred, slowly add the pasta. Do not break pasta, but gently bend it into the hot water with a spoon. Stir gently to separate the pieces.
Cook pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, boiling rapidly for the prescribed time.
When cooking pasta for a casserole that will be baked, consider that the pasta will cook more during the baking process, so do not fully cook it before adding it to the casserole.
Test about one minute before pasta is scheduled to be ready. Take out one or two pieces and test them by cutting them open. If there are any white spots inside the piece, cook for a couple more minutes. The inside should be yellow and translucent when ready. When you judge that the pasta is "al dente," just retaining a slight firmness, remove it from the heat. Take care not to overcook the pasta.
Strain excess cooking water through a colander. Do not strain off completely, as some moisture is needed to keep from clumping.
Don't rinse! Many cooks rinse pasta thinking it is the proper procedure. For lasagna and salad pasta, rinsing will help you to separate the pieces and work with them. Otherwise, the little starch that stays on the pasta helps sauces stick and so makes a better dish.
Traditional pesto sauce starts with one very important ingredient: basil. Fresh basil is abundant around farmers markets and can also be found in any local grocery store. If you do purchase fresh basil to kick off your pesto sauce, you can stick the remaining basil leaves in a cup of water to keep them from drying out.
Making homemade pasta can be time-consuming, but it can also be a fun cooking activity. Usually homemade pasta has a better flavor than commercially made dried pasta. By controlling what you put into your pasta, you may enjoy greater creativity with these homemade pasta recipes.
Once you make your own pasta by hand, you'll have a tough time going back. It's like comparing in-season garden tomatoes with out of season greenhouse-grown tomatoes. It's like comparing stereo with mono. It's like comparing black-and-white TV with color.