how do you cook pasta?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Micah Cohen, Jan 20, 2005.

  1. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    You're all thinking, this guy's a wacko; all these cooking questions. But I'm just a bachelor, not a professional cook, who is trying to figure out the best way to do this seemingly simple stuff (which is not at all that simple in real life).

    Cooking dried pasta, right? What could be easier? Boil the water, toss in the pasta, bring to a boil, 9-11 minutes, drain, serve.

    BUT...

    Do you add olive oil to the boiling water? If so, why?

    Do you rinse the pasta when you drain it? Is so, in cold water?

    Does adding oil in the boiling water before putting in the pasta change something?

    Does salt change anything?

    I have never gotten a straight answer on any of this, from my mommy, my Italian friends, from a bunch of cookbooks. Add oil, or don't. Rinse, or don't.

    How do you make pasta?

    All help is massively appreciated. I'm getting tired of eating eggs now...

    MC
     
  2. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    All these answers are from Alton Brown of "Good Eats", the best cooking show on Food Network.



    Adding salt to the boiling water is the only way to season the pasta itself. Adding after the pasta is cooked only seasons the sauce. Add enough salt to give a slightly seawater flavor to the water. Add after the water is boiling to prevent scarring stainless steel pots.

    Also, use plenty of water. At least 3 quarts for every pound of pasta. This ensures even cooking.
     
  3. chris_everett

    chris_everett Second Unit

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    Adding oil to the water will help prevent the pasta from sticking together.

    Rinsing pasta is usually done to stop the cooking process. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. I usually don't. I pull mine off the heat just before it's really done, and let the remaining heat finish the cooking. Seems more efficent that way to me.

    I don't normally use salt. Others do.
     
  4. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    (Whoops... We posted at the same moment... Sorry Chris...)

    What about the theory that adding a splash of oil to the boiling water keeps the pasta from sticking together after you drain it (thus making it unnecessary to rinse it, which I was always told is the way to keep it from sticking together)?

    MC
     
  5. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Old wives tale. The oil does nothing, most of it washes away. You actually want to dress the pasta lightly with sauce as soon as it is drained, preferably in the pan the sauce is cooked in and making sure all strands/pieces are convered. This will prevent sticking the actual "Italian" way. Or use butter or olive oil after the pasta is drained if you are plopping all the sauce on top of the pasta the "American" way. This way works, but usually no sauce sticks to the greased up pasta.

    Adding oil to the water only prevents boil over.
     
  6. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    Huh. New info.

    Pasta mixed into the sauce is the Italian way, sauce over pasta is "American"?

    How come in Italian restaurants, ones that I know are run by Italians (Vinny's in Dundalk, MD, comes right to mind) my pasta gets sauce "over it"? Do I dump my sauce, simmering in another, smaller pan, over the drained pasta (which I put back into the large pasta boiling pan)?

    See? SEE EVERYONE? This is not AS SIMPLE as we once thought. I am more confused than ever!

    MC
     
  7. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    If you watch Mario Batali's show on Food Network, he cooks authentic Italian pasta dishes. He is constantly explaining that authentic Italian pasta is lightly dressed in the pan the sauce is cooked in. He says the Italians never overpower the pasta with the "condimente" or sauce. According to him, this is quite unlike the American way, which is to cover the pasta with too much sauce, thus overpowering the taste and texture of the pasta.
     
  8. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    I don't have The Food Network. (I guess, that's why I have all these questions.)

    I am definitely guilty of smothering my pasta with my sauce. I need to lighten up, I guess.

    Good to know.

    MC
     
  9. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Micah, you have to beg, borrow or steal access to the Food Network. It is the single greatest thing to happen to cooking since the aluminum clad stainless steel pan. As an example, here is the cooking instructions for Mario Batali's "Black Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Mussels, Chilis and Mint":



    See, he just tosses the pasta in the pan the sauce was made in. He made this with homemade fresh squid ink pasta, but it is the same for dry. Good recipe, by the way. I made this a month or so ago.

    PS. The total amount of liquid in this sauce was 1 1/4 cups (1c tomato sauce, 1/4c white wine). Definitely not the 24oz jar we usually put on a pound of pasta. Those Italians absolutely do not overpower the pasta with sauce.
     
  10. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    [​IMG] I didn't know guys were allowed to watch The Food Channel. (All my female friends swear by it, tho.)

    I am having massive guilt for smothering my pasta with sauce. I just did this last night. I THOUGHT I was having a good dinner, but now I feel like I let myself down.

    Does it count that I make my own nickel-sized meatballs, with venison, beef and pork, and freeze them individually for use in my sauce later? (And, how the recent thread on using vacuum sealers has got me thinking...)

    I'm still convinced that adding a dollop of oil (earl, as we say in Baltimore) to the boiling water keeps the pasta from sticking together. Now, I have to reform my sauce practice.

    Did I mention that I just got a crock pot?

    I need to meet a woman who will cook for me. What the heck am I doing? [​IMG]

    MC
     
  11. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    There's no right or wrong way to do anything in cooking. If you like it, why would it be wrong? That's the whole fun of cooking...FREEDOM to do whatever you'd like.

    Sure, dumping a ton of sauce over pasta may not be the "Italian" way, but why does it have to be that way?

    It's like the red/white wine debate. Everyone has a system for determining which goes with what dish, but I've heard that it really doesn't matter (when all is said and done). I mean, I don't like white wine, so why would I not be allowed to drink red wine with fish if that's what I like? [​IMG]
     
  12. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Look, when you had a mother who forgot the recipe for ice cubes and frequently burned boiling water, you learn how to cook or you starve. Luckily, my dad was a manly man who was secure enough to be seen in the kitchen and became quite the gourmet cook, otherwise I would have had to survive off boiled hot dogs and canned beans until I was old enough to reach the stove. Plus, when my dad passed away, I inherited all his cool stuff (Dad liked collecting cooking stuff more than he liked actually cooking). I have a brother-in-law that is 6'2" 210lbs and works as a utility electrician carrying spools of cable all day long. His favorite channel is Food Network and I dare anyone to call him "girly". Besides, nothing scores the chickies more than saying "I'd like to cook dinner for you (breakfast, if you'd like it, is optional)".
     
  13. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    http://www.epicurious.com

    There's a lot of guides and how-to's there. For example:
    • Always cover your pasta pot after putting the pasta in so it will return quickly to a boil and prevent your pasta from sticking together.
    • Always cook pasta in salted water, but don't add the salt until the water boils. You'll need 2 tablespoons of kosher salt for 1 pound of pasta
    • To cut down on sodium, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a shot of vinegar to the pasta cooking water instead of salt.
    • Never add oil to the pasta cooking water. It will make the sauce slide off the pasta.
    • Never overdrain pasta and be sure to reserve some of the cooking water to loosen it up, if necessary.
    • Cooked dry pasta should be dripping wet when tossed with butter and sauce. And fresh pasta should be very moist.
    • If a pasta sauce is olive oil based, toss the pasta with a little extra olive oil before adding the sauce. And if the sauce is butter based, toss the pasta with a bit of butter.
    • Never serve angel hair pasta with sauce. It is impossible to keep it from overcooking and massing together. In Italy it is served only in broth.
    • If a pasta sauce is very thick, thin it with a little of the hot cooking water from the pasta before tossing. You'll find that it distributes much more evenly.
     
  14. Mark Sherman

    Mark Sherman Supporting Actor

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    AMEN to that. I cannot tell you how many times I have told Girls that I like to cook and got a positive reaction.


    " Hey Honey I was just thinking how bout we stay in tonight. I'll make you a Nice dinner then we kick back relax and watch a Movie. What do ya say?"


    Plus you save a SHIT load of money cooking at home instead of eating out.


    Get a George forman Grill. don't Laugh They are just great for a single guy. I have had my GFG for almost 6 years now. I cook Chicken, Fish, boneless porkchops and even steak on that thing. Not one Girl has complained that she had a bad meal from that thing.


    I also Love watching the food network. 3 shows I love are 30 minute meals and 40 dollars a day with Rachel Ray( who I just melt over) and there is a new show call everything Italian with Giada De Laurentiis who is just freakin too good looking for words.

    http://entimg.msn.com/i/gal/Troy/Troy12_300x435.jpg

    http://assets.shns.com/SH04L232FOODNETWORK.jpg






    Good luck with the pasta
     
  15. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    jeff nailed the oil question. it does nothing for the sticking factor, but helps reduce surface tension from the starches...thereby also eliminating all the white bubbly stuff you see.

    mark's post nailed all the other good tips.

    alton brown is a stud among studs...by far the best show on food network. food 911 (with tyler florence) is pretty good too. nice practical advice and techniques.
     
  16. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I heat the water, throw in the pasta, set the timer, and walk away. No salt, no oil. Then I strain it in a colander and eat it, well before I went on atkins [​IMG]

    It takes nearly FIFTEEN freaking minutes to boil spaghetti at 6400 feet MSL, if anyone was curious.
     
  17. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Mark Sherman, what's the reason for the photo of Diane Kruger? [​IMG]
     
  18. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    9-11 minutes seems way too long to me. I find that 6 minutes or so gives the right "al dente" texture (I cannot stand mushy pasta). Keep in mind that the pasta still cooks a bit after you remove it from the heat.
     
  19. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    A chemistry professor told my class once that adding salt actually raises the boiling temperature of water due to the interaction of the salt molecules with the water. He said that this higher boiling temperature helps pasta to cook better. I've never researched it to see if it's true or not though.
     
  20. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i think the salt thing is a myth...but don't remember where i read that. i believe the benefit of salting the water is so that the food (in this case the noodles) absorbs and is flavored by the salt.
     

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