Cooking Pasta in My Kitchen
Everyone loves a good noodle. It’s a quick, easy and economical way to eat. It can also be as elegant as you care to make it, and is universally beloved in every country I can think of. These are some fun tips to keep in mind next time you are making your favorite pasta dish.
Cook pasta in a large volume of rapidly boiling salted water; it should taste like sea water! I use 5 quarts to boil a pound of dried pasta. I like this volume even for smaller pasta amounts—it comes back to a boil faster, and makes cooking large pieces like spaghetti easier because they are submerged completely.
Stir, and Stir Soon
So your pasta goes into your large volume of salted boiling water. Immediately, those little starches on the exterior of the pasta swell with water. When those starches burst, the pasta becomes sticky. Now as you cook, the starches will be absorbed into the cooking water, they essentially wash away and the noodle cooks uniformly. BUT, and it’s a big one, during that first few minutes is when that sticky glue is being produced, so that’s when you need to stir it! If you don’t, the pasta pieces can stick together and you can end up with a big mess on your hands.
You don’t need oil in the water, that can actually prevent your pasta from cooking properly, alter the flavor and is a bit of a wives’ tale. Some chefs use oil to prevent starchy boil overs. I use a large pot and simply turn the heat down a notch so I am cooking appropriately without the oil slick tricks.
Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.