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Anonymous Modernist 3265

[Modernist Cuisine] Pasta Marinara (3•386)

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Made this one last night as I was intrigued to find what difference pre-soaking the spaghetti would make to the taste of finished dish and and interested to see if I could knock up a dish in just over a minute.

Since I don't have a centrifuge the Tomato Water was made to a recipe by Raymond Blanc which gives a very clear tomato water with infused flavours from other vegetables and herbs. The store bought spaghetti (as recommended) was soaked for an hour and then cooked in the tomato water. The recipe calls for the water to be brought to a boil and then the spaghetti cooked for 1 min 10 secs. Exactly? Not 1m 8secs or 1m 12secs? Now 500g of water is not a lot to cook spaghetti in and even in the smallest of pans does not give a lot of depth and it took all of the 1m 10secs for the spaghetti to soften enough to fully submerge. A minute later and the spaghetti was still hard and raw. In fact it took all of 6 or 7 seven minutes at a rolling boil to become 'al dente'. Even then it could have done with a minute or two more. So the recipe is clearly wrong.

Possible explanations/solutions

The time is a typo and should read maybe 7min 10secs - but what possible difference would that extra 10 seconds make?

The recipe says 'store bought' spaghetti which I took as normal dried spaghetti in a packet but maybe this is a recipe for store bough 'fresh' spaghetti (the kind you get in a vacuum pack)? It doesn't say that.

The soaking needs to be done for much longer than 1 hour - maybe 3 or 4 hours.

Maybe this should be done in a pressure cooker? 1min 10 secs would then make sense.

Any thoughts?

Anyway, the result was quite delicious, a light flavourful pasta without the usual heavy sauce. I didn't make the Tomato Confit but instead served it with thinly sliced sun-dried shop bought tomatoes, thinly sliced bacon cooked in the oven and a few pea shoots. The occasional sharpness of the tomatoes and saltiness of the bacon were the perfect foil to the delicately infused spaghetti. One observation is that the pasta dried quite quickly once plated and I felt that additional olive oil would have masked the flavour. A ladle of the tomato water after plating gave the perfect result.

Definitely one to try again when I've got a spare six hours to make the Tomato Water!

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Well, made this again tonight and left the spaghetti soaking for three hours. Result was that the spaghetti was quite pliable when it went into the boiling tomato water but it still took around four minutes to become al dente so where does this mythical 1 minute 10 seconds come into it? Or am I still missing something?

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LesE,

I have made several different types of pasta via the cold soaking method. What counts is the initial soaking. Are you refrigerating the pasta during this soaking? If so that could slow down the absorption of the tomato water. All of the pasta's that I have done were at room temperature. What counts is that it should come out of the soaking water as if you were taking it out of boiling water and putting it into a sauce. The longest I have ever a soaked a pasta was for Bowties, and these went for 2 hours.

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I made this recipe this week, and I was very pleased with the results. People I gave it to declared that it was of the quality of a $200 a plate restaurant.

It was a lot of work doing it as per the recipe. I took farm fresh tomatoes, pureed those, strained them then used the agar agar technique to clarify the juice. I then went out into the garden and got the herbs and infused the juice with those. I also took more garden tomatoes, cored, peeled and de-seeded them, added the ingredients and baked... Now i'm looking at ways to save time on this great recipe so here are some of my thoughts.

first i experimented with sun dried tomatoes to use to make tomato water. I bought a pound of those and covered with water for a while, resulting in a pretty good clear tomato water. I then took the now hydrated sundried tomatoes and added the herbs, etc. and dried those back out. I infused the tomato water as per the original recipe.

In a taste test comparison, i don't feel that this version was significantly different from the original version. But there is still the matter of 12 hours for infusion, so in comes the whipping siphon... I'm not sure of the time involved, and i don't have compressed air, so i took some tomato water i made using the agar agar technique on a 1.5L can of italian tomato juice and put the herbs in there under high pressure for 30 minutes. when i took those out that seemed well infused with the herb flavor. I'd actually like to figure out exactly what that time ought to be.

So then comes the cold soaking of the pasta. That is a HUGE trick that was a revelation for me at least, and it will be the way i make pasta from now on. The book said that it would keep in the fridge for 8 hours which i personally translated into "3 days" considering how crazy you guys are about perfection. Indeed I had soaked a 1lb box of pasta and after removing it from the tomato water i put that in a ziplock bag in the fridge, and i'm on day 3 and so far it's still very close to the original.

That leaves the tomato water. I have found that it is somewhat reusable, except that it will evaporate somewhat and so water must be added or else the pasta will become too salty. I have to experiment with freezing these items and seeing if this is a dish that i can make rapidly from the freezer.

Today I made a fresh batch of everything, but accelerated using the whipping siphon. I'm trying to calibrate the necessary time to soak the pasta using that gadget... I'm not sure what the calculation would look like. I'm also curious now, if there are little food grade compressed air whippits i can use with it, instead of the co2 or no2...

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dkliman,

You might be interested to know that we have a marinara recipe in MCAH that takes only 1 hour and uses a pressure cooker. It is, of course, a totally different recipe, but might help in your experiments!


Judy Wilson

Editorial Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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I'll have to try that! I've tried a few little things with the pasta, which there is still a tiny bit of left in the fridge (at this point i think it's probably ready for the worm box, but who knows...) I also want to try soaking pasta in just regular tomato juice and perhaps rinsing it off after, or not. and see if that can be any good.

I met Scott and Nathan today in NYC, which was a lot of fun, and you proved me wrong when I said nobody is responding to anything I've posted, which is a great thing, really! I'm glad you're here, with me, because I have a lot more kitchen experimentation ahead, i'd say.

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Have you tried pressure cooking pasta in tomato sauce? It's fantastic because the pasta absorbs all of the sauce - maybe a little more rustic than centrifuged tomato water soaked pasta but definitely faster and with amazing flavor.

Ciao,

L

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Made this over the weekend and all I can say is WOW! Such bright and clean flavors that we really enjoyed it.

The only mod I did, I do have a centrifuge but it is small, was to use the advice from Dave Arnold and his Cooking Issue radio program. Dave said to use Pectinex Ultra SPL along with the tomatoes, I used canned whole tomatoes, and blend them until the mixture warms. I then put this purée in a large piece of cheese makers cheese cloth and suspended it over a bowl in the fridge. After several hours a beautiful light yellow clear tomato water.

After that I weighted out the tomato water and adjusted the recipe as needed for the aromatics. I then strained and added the pasta to it. For the pasta I used linguine. For those whom have had difficulty with the pasta, I have noted earlier that I have only done room temperature soaking. Well this cold soaked pasta took almost 4 hr to get to the stage I like it prior to draining.

After that the recipe went as directed and we will be making this on a routine basis.

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I have found for the soaking of the pasta that instead of instructing "one hour," the instruction should be "until soft enough to bend without breaking." That varies depending on the pasta. I had tried using pressure, n02 and the whipping siphon to accelerate the process but that doesn't happen... pressure cooking sounds like it's apt to make the pasta far too soft... is that your experience?

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dkliman,

I figured out the secret formula for AL DENTE pressure cooker pasta - I'm in Italy so we have very high standards!! ; )

Pressure cook pasta at LOW pressure (that's setting 1 or the first ring on your Kuhn cooker) for HALF the cooking time written on the pasta package. Add just enough water (or tomato water) to cover the pasta and open with the Normal or quick release.

For a 500g/1lb pack of pasta, make usual amount of pasta sauce in the base of the cooker, then add dry pasta, 2 teaspoons of salt and just enough water to cover. See Arrabiata, Spinach Pesto, Cacio e Pepe and Ragu with dry pasta recipes here (http://bit.ly/13XMrjT) - these are NOT modernist recipes but I think the technique is perfectly suited to directly injecting the tomato water into the pasta.

Ciao,

L

P.S. Don't try the grocery store brand pasta - it's made with cheap wheat and usually not hard-semolina. Use a quality brand like Barilla, De Cecco or Divella. They are high-quality pastas DESIGNED to retain AL DENTE for a wider cooking range.

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Thanks @pazzaglia! I'll give your suggestions a try. I go to stores around here in ny such as "north shore farms" and "fairway," which have all the really good brands... barilla, de cecco and divella are among the lower end ones in those stores. I think we're spoiled around here. They also have lots of home-made pastas... which leads me to ask...

if i use fresh, not dried pasta, then how's this all play out?

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