Monday, April 7, 2014

Back to Basics: Pasta

Yes, I know you think you know how to make pasta. I'm here to tell you that while you probably know the basics, there are quite a few pro tricks that I recently learned that make a HUGE difference.

Pasta is great for so many reasons--it's quick to make, it can feed a crowd, and pleases both vegetarians and meat-lovers. Since it's likely in your weeknight arsenal of meals, why not make sure your pasta is perfect?

The Perfect Way to Cook Pasta

1. Boil Water

I know--you already know how to boil water. Great--just make sure you use at least 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta.

2. Salt your water.

Once the water is boiling, add a lot of salt to the water. Typically, you should add 1/4 cup of salt for every six quarts. The salt will season your pasta so that you are not putting delicious sauce onto bland boiled dough.

3. Cook to al dente.

Literally meaning "to the tooth", al dente is the true Italian way of cooking pasta. Your pasta should have texture and firmness, but is should NOT be crunchy. Typically, packages are pretty good at estimating al dente cooking times, but start checking the pasta two-three minutes before just in case. It's better to check too early, than to check too late!

4. Save the pasta water!

Instead of simply draining your pasta over the sink, letting all of the pasta water go to waste, save two cups of the liquid.  The water has a lot of starch and salt that will help balance out your sauce, no matter whether you made it yourself or you are relying on trusty Trader Joe's.

5. Use a saucepan and tongs.

When it comes to actually combining the pasta, sauce, and pasta water, use a saucepan and tongs. Over medium heat, add in the pasta, sauce, and a splash or two of the pasta water. Then, use your tongs to toss the pasta so it is evenly coated with sauce. The tongs also make serving pasta so much easier.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan, and then your pasta is ready to eat!

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