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Craig Camp

All About Pasta

202 posts in this topic

I've seen this recommendation made based on the premise that it limits the cooking process so the pasta remains al dente, but my own experience cooking pasta does not support this method's efficacy. If you use good pasta, the step should not be necessary. If you don't use good pasta, nothing will help. Still, it's better than rinsing the pasta under cold water! In addition, as with a roast, it's usually a good move to undercook the pasta a bit because it will receive additional heat when you combine it with the sauce.

I try to use in the neighborhood of 8 quarts of water as a bare minimum for cooking pasta, even if I'm cooking less than a pound. (In almost all cases, however, I cook a pound at a time.) The more water you use, the better, because it comes back to temperature more quickly after the addition of the pasta.

I also think one should add salt based on the quantity of water, not the quantity of pasta, and that it should be added in far greater quantity than any cookbook recommends. The water should approach salt-water from the ocean in taste.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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And as Craig says, it makes a big difference if you sauté the pasta in the sauce for a moment rather than just pouring the sauce over the pasta and combining the two.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I keep the glass of cold water next to the pot. As soon as I taste the pasta and it is done - in it goes. Just a small extra step that helps - not critical. Obviously more boiling water is better, but I don't use the same pot when I am just cooking for my wife and I that I do when cooking for more than 4. This is why I adjust the salt to the pasta. I just don't think it is necessary to bring 8 quarts of water to a boil to cook 200 grams of pasta. Concerning the salt - the rougher the pasta surface the more salt flavor it will retain from the water. With very smooth commercial pasta you need a lot of salt to get any flavor at all on the pasta.

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And as Craig says, it makes a big difference if you sauté the pasta in the sauce for a moment rather than just pouring the sauce over the pasta and combining the two.

In most instances I do both: I saute the two together so that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, and then once the pasta is in the serving bowl I top it with additional sauce.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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And as Craig says, it makes a big difference if you sauté the pasta in the sauce for a moment rather than just pouring the sauce over the pasta and combining the two.

In most instances I do both: I saute the two together so that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, and then once the pasta is in the serving bowl I top it with additional sauce.

That's the ticket. Otherwise you can end up over-saucing the pasta.

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I also don't think it necessary to use sea salt in the water, as the flavors are not discernable (to me, at least) in the final product regardless of the type of salt I use.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I also don't think it necessary to use sea salt in the water, as the flavors are not discernable (to me, at least) in the final product regardless of the type of salt I use.

Again I think it depends on the pasta. With a very hard smooth pasta it probably does not matter. With rough artisan pasta I think it makes a difference.

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In most instances I do both: I saute the two together so that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, and then once the pasta is in the serving bowl I top it with additional sauce.

Thats what Frank Pellegrino recommends in the Rao's Cookbook, also.

Did anyone else read in the Washington Post last week that the 2 richest men in the world dined with their wives @ Rao's last week - Bill Gates & Warren Buffet...I thought that was pretty interesting! :smile:

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I also like to save a cup or so of the pasta cooking water. You can use it to thin the sauce if it's too thick or to make it more "saucy."

We eat a lot pasta tossed with onions or garlic (or shallots or leeks or all four..quatro gigli) and maybe some other vegetables, and it's good add a little of the water.

Jim


Edited by Jim Dixon (log)

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Many people will say I am crazy, but I actually think Ronzoni is pretty decent. We keep Barilla and a few others in house -- mainly for shape variety. De Cecco is also pretty good.

Didn't it win the Cook's Illustrated prize?

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Hershey's/Nestle and other generic brands often score well in Cook's Illustrated tests. I have to assume the testers have dumbed-down/white-breaded palates that are trained to like middle-of-the-road supermarket products. However, I do think Ronzoni is a pretty decent pasta. The thicker, flatter noodles cook up nicely al dente, as does the ziti. It lacks the surface texture of the premium Italian brands and therefore doesn't take sauce as well, but taste- and texture-wise I find it to be quite good. (As I recall the Cook's tests tend to be simple tastings and don't take sauce absorption into account.) I think it's better than Barilla, though I haven't done serious controlled blind comparisons.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You can use it to thin the sauce if it's too thick or to make it more "saucy."

I wish I had this problem. In almost all instances, I'm wishing the sauce would be thicker.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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De Cecco and Rustichella D'Abruzzo are what I tend to use here in Canada.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I like Setaro, from Abruzzo, available in the Italian market in Chelsea market.


Edited by Charles Smith (log)

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For more expensive pasta my favorite is Latini. I love how their textures just grabs at the sauce. For every day pasta... de Cecco...my grandfather would probably disown me if he found I used anything else. I really tried hard to like Trader Joe's pasta (both the "expensive" one and the cheapie one) but I just don't. Part of it has to do with the fact that we always pack a lunch from the preceding night's dinner and neither pastas reheat well at all.

regards,

trillium

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If I try to reheat pasta my wife and her whole family will shoot me. However, it does work well in a frittata. Put the pasta in pan with a little EVOO, saute to warm it up, then add the wisked eggs. When the bottom is done finish the top under the broiler. Serve with a salad.

This assumes an Italian level of sauce that just coats the pasta.


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

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The comment about salt by FG has been rolling around in my mind enough to make me go back and re-read this thread. Brain freeze! I wrote the wrong thing about the salt. I use about a tablespoon PER QUART of water. I don't actually measure, but it is one small pile of course sea salt in my hand (I have big hands) per quart.

Sorry for the mistake. Thanks for spotting it FG.

I do adjust slightly for the size of the pot and the pasta. The bigger the pot the more salt I use. If the pasta is very hard and smooth I use even more - again referring to the piles of salt in my hand.

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I bought some of the Wegmans "Italian Classics" pasta tonight, and will report on it tomorrow when I cook it. Upon visual inspection, it looks excellent, with a very rough surface. It is made in Italy. A Web search revealed this interesting article:

http://www.privatelabelmag.com/pdf/jan_200.../food_pasta.cfm


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I finally had a chance to cook up the Wegmans pasta, in the "Gobetti" shape (kind of like elbows). It is an excellent product. It cooked up nicely al dente, and the surface ridges are highly sauce-retentive. My only complaint is that it comes in 12-ounce bags, and that the labeling makes it difficult to identify that fact -- I didn't actually realize it until I opened the bag and noticed that it seemed a bit short on contents.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Been very satisfied with Voiello pasta from Italy. It was supposedly Barilla's (Italy) second label and is very inexpensive. An Italian deli/butcher/caterer in Norwalk, CT is selling 2 packages for $1 in all shapes and sizes. Only English is "durum wheat pasta product."

FG another positive: 17.5 oz packages!


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Yesterday I prepared penne con asparagi e ricotta with both the penne from De Cecco and Tuscancia from Trader Joe's and the Tuscancia was clearly superior to the De Cecco - richer almost nutty flavor with excellent texture.

This is a very easy dish to have for asparagus season -

Bring the pasta water to a boil

Mix ricotta, EVOO, black pepper (I use a quite a bit) and a good amount of freshly grated Pecorino Romano - it should be creamy

Peel the lower half of the asparagus and slice into 1 inch lengths - separate the tips

Put the pasta in the boiling salted water

When there is five minutes left in the pasta cooking time add the asparagus stems to the boiling water

When there is two minutes left in the pasta cooking time add the asparagus tips to the boiling water

When the pasta is al dente drain and toss the pasta and asparagus with the sauce

Serve immediately with more freshly grated Pecorino Romano on the side

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For more expensive pasta my favorite is Latini.  I love how their textures just grabs at the sauce.

A vintner friend in Italy sent us two mixed cases of Latini and Latini soon became our favorite artisinal pasta. However, we discovered very early that cooking times are roughly 35 percent shorter than for Delverde, DeCecco and Barilla.

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For more expensive pasta my favorite is Latini.  I love how their textures just grabs at the sauce.

A vintner friend in Italy sent us two mixed cases of Latini and Latini soon became our favorite artisinal pasta. However, we discovered very early that cooking times are roughly 35 percent shorter than for Delverde, DeCecco and Barilla.

Cirpi - welcome to eGullet!

While I have found the de Cecco times to be very accurate it seems the smaller the producer the less accurate they are - for instance, Tuscancia always says 12 minutes on their labels no matter the shape. Experimentation and taste are the only sure answers.

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