Have you ever wondered why pasta is always perfectly cooked when you are in Italy? What are most Italians doing differently from the rest of the world (in general terms) when cooking pasta?
These simple tips helped me a lot in improving my pasta cooking skills, I hope they will do the same for you too.
1. Good pasta and shortcuts are not part of the same equation
If you want to make a pretty good pasta you can’t be in the shortcut state of mind. When you start avoiding things like the caulender to drain the pasta or chosing a small pot just to save some dishwashing work afterwards, you know that you are heading in the wrong direction. Please, try to snap out of it!
2. Always use a big pot to cook pasta
Give the pasta room to move, this will contribute to it not sticking to each other. And remember, don’t even think about adding oil to avoid the sticking, it will only ruin your pasta and it will only keep your sauce from gracefully coating your pasta.
3. Don’t hold back on the salt
Anna del Conte’s once said that the water in which you boil the pasta should be “as salty as the Mediterranean sea”. It is not an exact measure, but the message is that you shouldn’t old back with that salt.
4. Add the pasta only when the water is boiling
By adding the pasta only when the water is boiling you make sure that the bubbling of the water will keep the pasta moving in the pot, that convection will keep the pasta from sticking to each other or even to the pot.
5. Occasionally stir the pasta
Again, if you occasionally stir the pasta, you will be making sure that everything cooks separately and that it will not stick.
6. Keep track of the cooking time
This is such basic tip that might make you laugh, but it really does make the difference. Each pasta type has it’s own cooking time, so you should always trust the cooking time information that is written in the package. Sometimes you will find the normal cooking time and the al dente time (approaximately 2 minute less then the normal cooking time), always go for the al dente time because pasta will continue to cook once it is drained and the worst mistake you can do it is overcook pasta.
7. Always save a bit of cooking water
If you always save a bit of the cooking water you can use it in the end to correct the consistency of the sauce, to make the sauce more creamy, specially if you use cheese and to help keeping the pasta moist.
8. Match the pasta shape with the your sauce
Yes…There is such a thing as the perfect pasta shape to combine with the sauce. It is not by chance that when you are in Italy, your Carbonara is traditionally served with spaghetti or mezze maniche or the Pesto Genovese with trofiette, just to give you some examples. The chef Jacob Kenedy and designer Caz Hildebrand’s book “The Geometry of Pasta” defends really well this principle by presenting us the science behind matching pasta shapes with particular sauces.
9. Serve and eat right away
Pasta is the type of food that it is best when eaten as soon as it is ready, it should be cotta e mangiata (cooked and eaten), otherwise it will loose all it’s mojo.