Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tips for Cooking Pasta

Basic cooking instructions for boxed or dry pasta is the same for all varieties of pasta (vermicelli, spaghetti, fettuccine, etc.).  What does vary, depending on the variety and manufacturer, is the length of cooking time.  Pasta should always be cooked "al-dente" which means "to the tooth" or firm.  Do not overcook your pasta.  If you plan on using the pasta in Quick Pasta Dishes at a later date, you need to cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less, as the pasta will soften while refrigerated. 

To cook 1 pound of dry pasta (which yields about 10 cups or 8 servings of cooked pasta), bring 5 quarts of water with 2 Tbsp. salt (you can omit the salt if you are on a low sodium diet) to a rolling boil.  Just before adding the pasta, add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to water. Add pasta, stir immediately to separate each strand of pasta, return water to a boil.  Reduce heat to a light boil and cook according to manufactures directions.  Thin pasta (like Angle Hair or Thin Spaghetti) will require anywhere form 3-7 minutes.  Regular spaghetti will require 6-8 minutes.  Thicker, heavier pastas (like fettuccine) will require about 9-11 minutes for cooking.  If cooking fresh pasta, cooking time will be very short, usually between 1-3 minutes. 

Read package directions and stay with your pasta as the end of cooking time nears.  Also, using a timer will help prevent overcooking.  Do not "throw your pasta against the wall" to check for doneness.  If you follow this method, only overcooked and limp pasta will stick to the wall.  Drain your pasta thoroughly in a colander.  If using right away, rinse your pasta in hot water.  If using your pasta in cold salads or if you plan to refrigerate the pasta for Quick Pasta Dishes, rinse pasta under cold water to stop cooking process.  Drain well.  Refrigerate in sealable plastic bags.
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