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All About Pasta

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#61 Craig Camp

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Posted 14 April 2003 - 07:27 PM

Tunina,

As salting water is the conventional wisdom this is a very interesting concept. I agree with you that salting the water for fresh pasta as compared to dried pasta is a totally different concept, but I find that heavily salting the water for dried pasta seems to bring it alive. This is especially true if adding relatively light amounts of sauce in the Italian style. As far as cheese goes, how does that work if you are having a seafood or porcini sauce where cheese would not usually be used?
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#62 Suvir Saran

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Posted 14 April 2003 - 11:31 PM

Contrary to Italian wisdom and to what many in the know even in the US understand, Americans do add cheese EVEN to pasta with seafood. :rolleyes:

#63 tunina

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 08:24 AM

Gentlemen,

I agree that Italians never add cheese to seafood pasta dishes, however it is true, Americans seem to love grated cheese with seafood pasta. And even with using a smaller amount of sauce with pasta, and with or without cheese, I still prefer not to salt the water. I find that cooking the pasta in the water to a very "al dente" stage, straining it and cooking the pasta with the sauce, i.e., marrying the two together, the pasta absorbes the sauce and is flavored and brought alive, as you say, by the sauce and the bit of starch left in the pasta as it cooks further. I also find that I use less sauce with this method.

Honestly, to the people I know who cook and love to eat pasta, it is really a matter of personal taste. The "do salts" certainly have the decision, but you might want to try it without and see what you like best. After all, isn't that the most important thing? :smile:

#64 Craig Camp

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 08:33 AM

Gentlemen

We appreciate the compliment - even if undeserved. Have you seen some of the other threads!

I will give it try and report back. Thanks for the idea.
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#65 tunina

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 10:47 AM

We appreciate the compliment - even if undeserved. Have you seen some of the other threads!


To that Craig I suggest: take it while you can still get it!

#66 Liza

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 12:57 PM

Contrary to Italian wisdom and to what many in the know even in the US understand, Americans do add cheese EVEN to pasta with seafood. :rolleyes:

Some Americans, not all. :smile:

Edited by Liza, 15 April 2003 - 01:09 PM.


#67 Suvir Saran

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 10:47 PM

Contrary to Italian wisdom and to what many in the know even in the US understand, Americans do add cheese EVEN to pasta with seafood. :rolleyes:

Some Americans, not all. :smile:

Again:

Contrary to Italian wisdom and to what many in the know even in the US understand, Americans do add cheese EVEN to pasta with seafood. :rolleyes:

:smile:

Edited by Suvir Saran, 15 April 2003 - 10:51 PM.


#68 Steve Martin

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Posted 16 April 2003 - 03:50 PM

Some say 'as salty as the Mediterranean'. At 40 grams per litre of fresh water, this seems excessive to me. Those using this strength for green vegetables are generally refreshing in fresh water afterwards.

Another recommendation is 10 grams per litre. This is enough water for 100 grams of pasta, by the way.

It is possible to dissolve 562 grams of salt in a litre of fresh water. Slightly more when hot.
ie. A saturated solution is 360 grams per kilo.

#69 siena_us

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 06:08 AM

Is that true???
I heard a friend say this... I was not sure how true this is..
I have heard the same, and actually tasted the results of this in regards to sea food... but for pasta???  :rolleyes:

Yes it should be salty and we do use "salty as the sea" as a reference but of course it really isn't that salty. I throw in about a handful (2 heaping tablespoon fulls) of rock salt to my 4 quart pot.

I have never worked in a restaurant here (Italy) or seen one where they did not salt the water by the way. And to be quite honest I would have sent back the pasta if it was not cooked with enough salt and wouldn't return as it would mean they weren't into putting out good food. There is a difference.

Another thing is to not add too much salt to your sauce as when you marry the sauce and the pasta together you also should add a ladel or so of the pasta cooking water which will have salt in it.

#70 MobyP

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Posted 05 May 2003 - 12:35 AM

It seems to me that - after much experimentation - pasta cooked in unsalted water will leach the salt from the sauce or condiment, ruining any careful seasoning you had going.

Try it.
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#71 siena_us

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Posted 05 May 2003 - 01:50 AM

It seems to me that - after much experimentation - pasta cooked in unsalted water will leach the salt from the sauce or condiment, ruining any careful seasoning you had going.

Try it.

You may believe so but try that with any Italian and they will tell you the pasta is sciocco (needs salt), even if the sauce is salty enough. It really does make a difference in the final product.

#72 MobyP

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Posted 05 May 2003 - 03:18 AM

Siena Us

I'm agreeing with you.
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#73 Katherine

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Posted 05 May 2003 - 05:38 AM

By the way, sea water is really, REALLY salty. I harvested some once for a salt-making project. It's like brine, not like broth.

I personally add enough salt to make the water taste as salty as a broth.

#74 Belmont3

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Posted 05 May 2003 - 05:51 AM

Tunina,

As salting water is the conventional wisdom this is a very interesting concept. I agree with you that salting the water for fresh pasta as compared to dried pasta is a totally different concept, but I find that heavily salting the water for dried pasta seems to bring it alive. This is especially true if adding relatively light amounts of sauce in the Italian style.

Craig, I agree with you, I salt the water heavily with the dried or boxed pasta. When I make homemade, I will salt but not nearly as heavy as the dried.

#75 siena_us

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 03:12 AM

Moby P,

Sorry about that, I guess I should know better to read before the caffeine has hit my system :biggrin:

#76 jess mebane

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Posted 17 May 2003 - 05:47 PM

salty as the Mediterranean. But before or after the boil? I always imagined water boiled faster somehow if it was salted first. I did flunk the hell out of chemistry, tho'.

#77 WHT

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 01:11 AM

I always thought that adding salt to water was to raise the boling point. Not to add flavor.
Living hard will take its toll...

#78 T. Brooks

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 05:15 PM

Open the French Laundry Cookbook. For big pot blanching, he says either 1/2 to 1 cup of salt per gallon of water.

Two tablespoons isn't enough. A generous handful is enough. Use sale grosso if you can find it. The rock salt breaks down much nicer in the water, and there's something about the crystalline structure that makes it taste better, dissolve easier, etc. Taste it, though. If it isn't too strong for you, it's not strong enough.

It also depends if you're using fresh pasta or not, and how the pasta is made. Since Fresh is more porous, the moisture in the pasta will soak up the salt faster. For dry pasta, it's all about surface area. Some Orrechiete, for example, is made with ridges. Bucatini has a hole in the middle. That leaves more room to absorb salt, so you may want to cut down just a bit.

The Giuseppe Cocco Pasta company uses bronze dies that fit each pasta strand with grooves, and they air dry it as well to keep the texture they want. It's dusted with flour, which will absorb salt and dissipate into the water as cooking takes place.

Here's the kicker. If you're doing a pan sauce (Which you should be), get a pasta insert for your pot and save the water. Removing the pasta halfway through cooking and finishing it in the pan with the simmering sauce ensures that a great al dente is acheived every time. The reason I say save the water is so if the sauce absorbs too much into the pasta, you can add spoonfuls of water to both thin it out and reintroduce more flavor into the sauce from the salt and the starch from the pasta. Letting it cook down, the end result will be a new dimension in sauce flavor.

I cooked in Torino, Italy, and I'll be damned if my conscience will let me allow anyone ever to mishandle pasta again. I drive past Olive Garden and weep.

#79 Craig Camp

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 06:00 PM

Removing the pasta halfway through cooking and finishing it in the pan with the simmering sauce ensures that a great al dente is acheived every time.

Are you suggesting to take a dried pasta that takes about twelve minutes to cook out of the water and trying to finish it in the sauce after just six minutes of boiling?

That just does not work. You only 'finish' the pasta cooking in the sauce in order to blend the flavors.
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#80 Craig Camp

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 06:03 PM

I always thought that adding salt to water was to raise the boling point. Not to add flavor.

Changing the boiling point is just bonus points. The salt is to add flavor.

The reason you only add the salt after the water has reached a boil is in order not to trash your nice pans. If you put the salt in early it lays on the bottom and acts like little jackhammers on the bottom of your pan as it comes to a boil.
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#81 T. Brooks

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 09:16 PM

Removing the pasta halfway through cooking and finishing it in the pan with the simmering sauce ensures that a great al dente is acheived every time.

Are you suggesting to take a dried pasta that takes about twelve minutes to cook out of the water and trying to finish it in the sauce after just six minutes of boiling?

That just does not work. You only 'finish' the pasta cooking in the sauce in order to blend the flavors.

Perhaps you misread, Craig. By halfway, I was just giving a rough estimate, as we never used timers, always guessed. As far as how it should feel if you bite it at the time, a bit wheaty, still dry in the middle, but flexible for the most part.
If you're going to disagree with me on 'finishing' a pasta, the 'finishing' includes adding more body to the sauce, tightening up the flavors, and finishing the cooking of the pasta. For the 11 minutes it may say on the box, I put mine in for 6 to 7, strain and incorporate right into the sauce, adding the water stored in the pasta and a couple spoonfuls of the pasta water to get everything cooked and bound together as a cohesive dish.
The water will evaporate, the salt will incorporate itself into the sauce, which if you've salted your water properly will mean that you don't really need to add salt to your sauce in addition.
Basically all important pasta sauces I can think of need time to reduce. The water added isn't a bad thing, but by it's proper addition to the pan at the right time in the correct amounts, the dish comes together.
I know too many chefs who agree with me who are from Italy to change my position.

#82 T. Brooks

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Posted 18 May 2003 - 09:19 PM

I always thought that adding salt to water was to raise the boling point. Not to add flavor.

Changing the boiling point is just bonus points. The salt is to add flavor.

The reason you only add the salt after the water has reached a boil is in order not to trash your nice pans. If you put the salt in early it lays on the bottom and acts like little jackhammers on the bottom of your pan as it comes to a boil.

Salt is a preservative. For anything that incorporates a vegetable with chlorophyll, salted water keeps those vegetables green.
In addition to adding flavor, salt gives a more even boil to a pot, yielding uniformly cooked product.

#83 Craig Camp

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 06:55 AM

As far as how it should feel if you bite it at the time, a bit wheaty, still dry in the middle, but flexible for the most part.

For the 11 minutes it may say on the box, I put mine in for 6 to 7, strain and incorporate right into the sauce, adding the water stored in the pasta and a couple spoonfuls of the pasta water to get everything cooked and bound together as a cohesive dish.
The water will evaporate, the salt will incorporate itself into the sauce, which if you've salted your water properly will mean that you don't really need to add salt to your sauce in addition.
Basically all important pasta sauces I can think of need time to reduce. I know too many chefs who agree with me who are from Italy to change my position.

Now you are being clear. It is not a 'halfway' thing but a taste thing. This is , of course, the only way to tell if a pasta is done.

There are still some problems here. You cook pasta in a lot of water so there is room for the pasta to move and cook evenly. If you take it out too soon it is difficult to cook it evenly in the pan with the sauce - unless you are using way too much sauce. The common problem here in the USA.

It is also obvious sauces need to reduce, but you take a unnecessary and unrewarding risk by adding the pasta to the sauce too early as you can easily overcook the pasta if the sauce is not reduced to the proper degree when the pasta is done.

The most important reason for the blending of the sauce and the pasta over heat is the blending of the flavors and to better adhere the sauce to the pasta. This can and should be done quickly. The sauce should be completly ready when the pasta is ready and then finished in the pan for the above reason. At this point it can be 'corrected' with the pasta water if too thick. As you mention in another post, the water for fresh pasta needs to be salted differently (less) than for dry. As salting levels can vary it does not make the pasta water a very reliable method for 'salting' a dish. I prefer to know exactly how much salt I add to the sauce.
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#84 slkinsey

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 07:42 AM

I always thought that adding salt to water was to raise the boling point. Not to add flavor.

Changing the boiling point is just bonus points. The salt is to add flavor.

Actually, both are wrong on some level.

First, the change in the temperature of the boiling point is minimal. Something along the lines of one tenth of one degree, and to achieve even that you would have to add a lot of salt. So to suggest that adding salt to water raises the boiling point in any meaningful way, whether it is the primary goal or a side-benefit, is mistaken.

Second, if you're talking about pasta, which is a starch and will absorb some salt from the water, then you are absolutely correct that adding salt will contribute flavor. The same would be true of, say, peeled potatoes. If, on the other hand, you are talking about green vegetables... again, this is a misconception. When you drain the vegetables, only a tiny amount of salt remains on the vegetable and virtually none is absorbed. Try cooking, say, green beans or broccoli florets of equal size in unsalted water, moderately salted water and copiously oversalted water -- then drain them and see if you and your friends can tell the difference in a blindfolded test.
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#85 Craig Camp

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 07:48 AM

Second, if you're talking about pasta, which is a starch and will absorb some salt from the water, then you are absolutely correct that adding salt will contribute flavor.  The same would be true of, say, peeled potatoes.  If, on the other hand, you are talking about green vegetables... again, this is a misconception.  When you drain the vegetables, only a tiny amount of salt remains on the vegetable and virtually none is absorbed. 

Winner: Most Scary Avatar Contest :blink:

Thanks for the clarifications. I think you are right. However, I do notice in dishes where you cook leafy vegetables with the pasta (like Orecchiette e Broccoli Rapa con Alice Salata) the leafy vegetables will hold a lot of the salt making the dish too salty when you add the anchovies or sardines. In this case I do not add salt to the water.
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#86 slkinsey

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 07:57 AM

Winner: Most Scary Avatar Contest :blink:

Hee! From an old headshot, actually... The photog uses a digital camera that is amazing. I can literally blow up that eye to the point where I see all the blood vessels in the white part in alarming detail.

Thanks for the clarifications. I think you are right. However, I do notice in dishes where you cook leafy vegetables with the pasta (like Orecchiette e Broccoli Rapa con Alice Salata) the leafy vegetables will hold a lot of the salt making the dish too salty when you add the anchovies or sardines. In this case I do not add salt to the water.

Given the vastly larger surface area to volume ratio in leafy vegetables, it makes sense that a much larger amount of salt would remain on the surface.
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#87 Steve Martin

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 09:00 AM

Broccoli and cauliflower are two vegetables that require careful salting because they do retain a lot of salt in the florets. Green beans do not and I too have read that very, very little salt will remain on their surface.

The science suggests that salting does nothing for colour anyway and Heston Blumenthal's experiments did show that salt has no effect.
Water low in calcium is the secret for preserving the green colour.
I still like to think that putting plenty of salt in the water will inhibit the dissolving of flavour components from the food.



I think 50 g/kg of salt will give 0.5 deg Celsius increase in boiling point. Nothing to speak of.

#88 Craig Camp

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 09:03 AM

I still like to think that putting plenty of salt in the water will inhibit the dissolving of flavour components from the food.



Could you elaborate on this point?
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#89 slkinsey

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 09:18 AM

I still like to think that putting plenty of salt in the water will inhibit the dissolving of flavour components from the food.

Could you elaborate on this point?

Yes, I too would like to hear the reasoning behind this.

One would think that using water that is less saline than the inside of the vegetables might cause those vegetables to release less of their internal fluids into the water, which might potentially be seen as "dissolving the flavor compounds," or to actually absorb some of the cooking liquid. On the other side of the coin, one would think that using water that is more saline than the inside of the vegetables would have the opposite effect. This seems like a question of basic equilibrium to me.

All of this is, of course, complicated by the element of heat -- so maybe that changes things. Or perhaps idea is that the presence of salt in the water would cause certain solids in the vegetables to not go into solution when they otherwise might in a less saline environment? Or maybe the idea is to use a saline solution so that some of the water is actually drawn out of the vegetables, thereby concentrating the flavors somehow (or preventing them from being diluted by the absorbtion of water that would happen in an unsalted environment)?
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#90 Steve Martin

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Posted 19 May 2003 - 12:06 PM

I did say I like to think it is the case :smile:
All the research seems to be centred on colour alone and salting is now found to be no help with that.

I find it hard to completely discount the preference of chefs down the ages; there must be some benefit in salting. maybe.

Osmosis shouldn't be very significant at these low concentrations and, I think, would only draw pure water out of the veg.

I think that the water having salt in it will make the dissolving of other solids less likely.

Alastair Little is pretty definite that cooking in well salted water has nutrional benefits (better than steaming as well), but I can't find any research on the matter.





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