When it comes to pasta, nothing can be more of a dish-killer than limp, lackluster and lifeless spaghetti, angel hair, penne – you name it! As a general rule of thumb with cooking, timing is everything!
A pasta dish that is palette pleasing is neither undercooked nor overcooked. Get the timing off and you could be eating blah noodles you can’t even redeem with garlic and butter. So, set the standard of your home Italian cooking to ideal. Here are some tips, tricks, and tidbits for awesomely al dentepasta that’s just the right amount of firm with a textural treat.
ALL FOR AL DENTE
Al dentetranslates as “to the tooth” in Italian, giving pasta a soft chewiness rather than going mushy and limp with each bite. Eating al dentepasta even has health benefits since firmer pasta takes longer to break down the carbohydrates, resulting in more balanced blood sugar levels. You end up feeling fuller faster so you might have less of a tendency to overeat.
PASTA’S MANY FORMS
Pasta is diverse and comes in many types, including: spaghetti, ravioli, angel hair, penne, vermicelli, macaroni manicotti, mafalda, rotini, rigatoni, rotelle, tagliatelle, tortellini, fettuccine, bucatini, fusilli, orecchiette, farfalle, farfalline, fideo, fuselli, agnolotti, cavatelli, cavatappi, capellini, ziti, and many others.
It’s estimated that there are over 350 types of pasta, each with its own size, shape, and texture, but if you’re only familiar with the first few names on the list you can still make a perfectly cooked pasta meal!
AL DENTETIPS, TRICKS AND TIDBITS
Use a large pot: Make sure you have enough water in your pot and that your pot is big enough for the water and pasta. Aim to use a large pot and four quarts of water per pound of pasta as a general rule. Pasta needs plenty of room to move around while cooking, and a too-small pot clumps the noodles together and leaves them gummy.
Add salt:Once the water is boiling, add sea salt. There are differing opinions, but most experts agree that salting water so it “tastes like the sea” is essential for great tasting pasta. Remember, after the water is drained away, the pasta retains only a small fraction of salt. One tried and true magic formula for cooking one pound of pasta in four quarts of water is to add one tablespoon sea salt for a perfectly seasoned pasta dish.
Don’t add oil:Don’t add oil to your pot of water! Some people think oil helps keep the pasta from sticking, but oil prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta and makes the dish less flavorful.
Add pasta and stir:After the salted water is at a full boil, add the pasta. Let the noodles sink slowly into the water and stir for the first few minutes so the noodles don’t clump and stick together, but you only need to stir occasionally after that.
Taste test the texture:Note the cooking time listed on the package, but remember those times are approximate. To be sure your pasta is cooked al dente, you’ll want to be a taste-test texture-checker. Lift out a noodle from time to time as the pasta cooks and bite it. The pasta should be soft enough to bite, but not crunchy. If it’s crunchy, it’s still uncooked. If you look closely at the noodle, you’ll see a lighter spot in the very center and that tells you the pasta is perfectly al dente.
Drain, don’t rinse:When you know your pasta is sufficiently al denteby trying a noodle, bring to the sink to drain immediately. There’s a lot of debate about this, but don’t rinse your pasta unless you are making a cold pasta salad. You’ll wash away the flavor, nutrients, and starch that the sauce needs to stick to.
Shortly after serving, it’s time to mangiamo! (Italian for “eat up”). Dress your ah-mazingly al dentepasta up and enjoy!