What you need to know about pasta
Pasta is a simple product made from ground durum wheat, buckwheat, rice, or corn plus water. Durum wheat has quite a high protein content and is rich in gluten and low in starch. Gluten, a protein, is the viscous and elastic binding agent which allows the pasta to be kneaded and which gives it its elasticity. Pasta comes in many types and shapes; you’ll never get bored with this food type. I love every shape of pasta, and I usually choose simple and light sauces to accompany it.
Where can you buy pasta?
You can make pasta on your own (look at the link) or buy it at the supermarket. I love Barilla pasta, but if you can find these brands in your country, try Rummo and Garofalo pasta because they are the best to come out of Italy. Besides Barilla, De Cecco is a very popular brand in the US, and all shapes can be found.
Hot or cold water to cook pasta?
Only cook pasta in hot water. Follow these steps: fill 2/3 of a large stockpot with water. Put the pot on high heat, cover with a lid, and bring the water to a rolling boil. Then add the salt, and when it boils again, add the pasta.
Pasta cooks evenly in a large pot and doesn’t stick together. Sometimes, high-quality dry pasta may even triple its volume. Remember, it’s better to use more water than less: 1½ liters of water for every 2 cups (100g) of pasta is the right quantity.
Cook pasta without a lid
Cook the pasta without a lid, but first, use a lid to bring the water to a rolling boil faster. As soon as it boils, add the salt and pour in the pasta. Str the pasta initially to keep it from sticking together.
How long should you cook pasta?
It depends on your taste and the quantity and shape of pasta; water hardness plays an important role. Unfortunately, there is no average time as every pasta shape has its own peculiar features. It may take 1-2 minutes (for fresh or rice noodles) or up to 15-20 minutes.
First of all, check the package instructions carefully and taste it while cooking. Start timing it when the water returns to a boil, not just after pouring it in.
Here are some variables:
- Durum wheat semolina pasta takes longer to cook than pasta made with all-purpose flour. Choose pasta with a longer cooking time because it usually has a lower glycemic index. This means that it takes longer to be digested, and the sugar it produces will be less impactful on your body. Remember the following:
- Fresh pasta takes less time to be cooked;
- Thick pasta takes longer than thin pasta.
How do you know if pasta is done?
Before reaching the earliest cooking time stated on the package, pick up a strand of spaghetti with a fork or a few pieces of short pasta and taste. If it is tender but firm and you have to chew the tiny core in the middle, it is done. If you want to be sure, have a look at the core; if you can still see a solid white in the center, cook it for a few minutes more.
If your pasta is very soft, sticky, and very light, I am sorry, but you have overcooked it. Next time try for less cooking time. Drain it right away; otherwise, it will go on cooking.
When you cook pasta, don’t worry too much about it. Just stir it every few minutes so it doesn’t stick together or to the bottom of the pot. Test it just before draining. If some water foams up over the side of the pot, lower the heat but do not add cold water because it will spoil the cooking process.
How can I season pasta once cooked?
First and main rule: Drain the pasta and season it with the sauce you have just prepared. In case you want to prepare a cold salad or any other cold dishes with the pasta, put it under cold running water to remove the starch and stop the cooking progress. Serve it hot.
Season the pasta with fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, vegetables, and herbs such as sage or oregano. High-quality extra virgin olive oil or very good butter and a little freshly grated Parmigiano cheese will turn your pasta into a delicious meal.
A few golden rules not to make any mistakes:
- Both long and short pasta must be cooked in plenty of water: 1 liter or 1.5 liters per 1 cup (100g) of pasta.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a tall stockpot. Leave enough space at the top because you do not want the water to boil over.
- Only add the salt after the water boils. Use about 2 teaspoons (12g) per liter of water.
- Add the pasta and bring the water back to a rolling boil. Lower the heat so that the water boils gently.
- Stir the pasta with tongs every few minutes, so it doesn’t get sticky.
- Drain the pasta when it is still al dente or chewy because it is easier to digest as it has soaked up less water.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (start timing only when the water returns to a rolling boil), but always taste the pasta before draining it. If the core is still white, the pasta still needs 1 or 2 more minutes.
- When the pasta is done, season it to your taste. Try it as we say in Italian, “In Bianco,” or with a little olive or butter.