You may have cooked pasta many times, but have you ever cooked it perfectly?
Let’s have a look at the main tips to find out how to get the most out of this staple of Italian cuisine!
Pasta is one of the first things most of us cook. Even those that don’t enjoy cooking will know how to prepare it – boil water, add pasta, drain, eat. But all sorts of crimes have been committed against pasta over the years, with myths and incorrect advice affecting both the texture and the flavour.
If you want to cook your next dinner in a true Italian way, follow these guidelines and pave the way to pasta perfection.
1. Pasta shapes
The first step to make a perfect Italian pasta menu is choosing the right pasta shape for the sauce you intend to mix it with. The correct matching between pasta shape and seasoning is a must of the Italian cuisine. There are more than 300 different shapes, from the most common ones such as spaghetti and rigatoni to many specialties and regional shapes; and virtually endless number of possible combinations of ingredients to create both simple or elaborate sauces. Therefore, first of all, make sure you are selecting the right shape of pasta with the sauce you want.
2. The water
Make sure to put the right quantity of water in the pan, so that pasta can move about. For every 100g of pasta there should one liter of water.
Always bring water to the boil before adding pasta. Otherwise the exterior will start to turn mushy before the center softens.
Once boiling, add plenty of salt: about 7 grams per liter of water; this doesn’t just flavour the pasta, but also shortens its cooking time.
Stir the pasta regularly to prevent it sticking together. A common myth is that adding oil to the water will keep each piece of pasta separate; however, it will just sit on the surface and sauce will slide off.
Italian style requires pasta to be cooked “al dente” and never until completely soft. Therefore, you can follow packet instructions, or do like Italian usually do and just taste as you cook until you’re happy with the texture. If you’re finishing the pasta in a sauce then be sure to drain it a few minutes earlier as it will continue cooking.
Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain and immediately serve it or combine with sauce. Be sure to reserve a small cup of the starchy water as you drain, which can be very useful for helping the sauce emulsify and cling to the pasta.
5. The sauce
Pasta is delicious enough on its own with some drops of extra virgin olive oil, but more often we serve it with sauce. Rich, meaty ragù, light and creamy seafood sauces or a simple dressing of cheese are all equally well-matched to a bowl of pasta. Once the pasta is drained, add it to your cooked sauce and stir everything together. Enjoy!