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Tip: How to boil pasta





Pasta dishes can be so wonderful—incredibly light, unbelievably flavorful—but they can also be dense, stuck-together disappointments. You can help your pasta dish be its best by knowing a few facts of cooking the pasta itself.

When you drop pasta into a pot of boiling water, the starch granules on the surface of the pasta instantly swell up to their maximum volume and then pop. The starch rushes out and, for a brief time, the pasta’s surface is sticky with this exuded starch. Eventually, most of this surface starch dissolves in the water and washes away, and the pasta surface becomes a soft solid.

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil with salt added in. Salted water will enhance the flavor of the pasta and will reduce the amount of salt you need in the actual sauce. Never use oil as it will cause the pasta to be oily and the sauce will slide off of it.

2) Stir in the first few minutes of cooking to prevent it from sticking together.

3) Toss hot pasta with hot sauce quickly—without rinsing it—so the pasta absorbs more sauce and flavor. As it cools, the swollen starch in the pasta crystallizes and becomes insoluble, and the pasta won’t absorb as much sauce. Just so there’s no delay, I always prepare the sauce first in a large skillet, even if it’s simply olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes. The second the pasta is done (I like it just a breath beyond al dente), I scoop it out of the water with a big Chinese ladle-type strainer or spider. I let the pasta drain over the pot for a few seconds, and then I dump it into the hot sauce, stir well, and set a lid on the skillet. I let the pasta sit, covered, to absorb the sauce for a minute or two, and then I remove the lid, stir again, and serve instantly.

Pro tip: Rinsing the pasta after cooking is a bad idea for a couple of reasons. It can cool the pasta and prevent absorption of a sauce, and it can wash away any remaining surface starch, which at this point in the cooking can work to your advantage. The small amount of starch left on the pasta by the cooking water can thicken your sauce slightly.





One Response

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