9 ways you’re cooking pasta wrong
I recently went on a trip to the World Pasta Championships in Parma, Italy, all courtesy of Barilla pasta, the biggest pasta company in the world - and I saw a lot of pasta, essentially.
I looked at it, smelled it, tasted it and talked about it - I learned things about pasta that you never thought you’d learn. Because to me, pasta was pasta - stick it in hot water, coat it in pesto, Bob’s your Anglo-Italian uncle.
But seeing where it all came from made me realise that I was sort of doing pasta a disservice. Chucking half a pot of sauce over it, punting in a chopped up meat and then drenching it (and I mean DRENCHING it) in cheddar - it’s not the way to do it, actually.
Turns out, we’re doing it wrong, and doing it right makes all the difference. Do it the right way, the traditional way.
And, I’m also talking about dry pasta here. There’s a myth that fresh pasta is better, but really, it’s not. It’s on par - you just use each type in different situations, and many top chefs use the dry stuff on a regular (most likely Barilla, if you’re asking).
How can you do it yourself? It’s easy - just stop making the following mistakes…
1. Stop using a tiny little pot
You need a hefty size on your kitchen implements here - the pasta needs to be swimming in water, and, if you’re using a little pan filled with a shallow puddle of nothing, your pasta’s gonna cook unevenly and taste all over the shop. Keep it even, keep it tasty.
2. You’re chucking the pasta in the water before it’s boiled
You’ve got to get that water boiling first. For best results pour cold water in and bring it to the boil from scratch.
3. You’re holding back on the salt
Really, the only chance you get to season the actual pasta itself is when you put the salt in the water. If you’re using about 100g of dry pasta, you want about a litre of water, and then a perfect amount of salt to bung in is 7g. Add it in just as the water starts to boil.
4. For some reason, you’re chucking oil in the water
Some people say it stops the water boiling over, but it actually just stops the sauce from sticking to the pasta.
5. You’re stirring it too much
If you’ve got a good quality pasta, there’s a low release of starch so it’s not going to stick. If you bang in a big spoon and stir like crazy, you’re going to smush it all up. Leave it alone, or at least be gentle (bit of stirring at the beginning, basically).
6. You’re cooking it for too long
This is the biggest mistake, and the one I was making every time I ate my pesto mulch. You want to be draining the pasta when it’s still a little bit hard. For spaghetti this is about seven minutes, but it will differ for other shapes and sizes (it should hopefully tell you on the pack). This is so when you start to cook it in the sauce, it doesn’t overcook (it’s also better for you this way - it’s metabolised slower and therefore makes you feel fuller).
7. You’re pouring all the cooking water down the drain
Keep some of that salty water to add to the sauce. It helps loosen whatever you’re adding to the pasta and makes it easier to mix. In fact, you can chuck your pasta into another pan with only a few ladles of cooking water, if you’ve got enough seasoning in there - the pasta will absorb the flavour fantastically. Lots of garlic, bit of chili, couple of prawns, dash of olive oil – perfection.
8. You’re rinsing your pasta to kingdom come
You don’t have to do this once you’ve drained it - in fact, it’s a bad idea because it removes the light starch coating on the pasta. You need that there to help the sauce stick.
9. You’re eating it too quickly
Enjoy that juicy, juicy dough. Savour the flavour. Stop rushing it and, truly appreciate the magical dish.
So there you go: essentially, you’re now a genius pasta chef. Take this advice and trust me, you will notice a massive difference.
Oh, and, a bonus fact; a single strand of spaghetti is called a spaghetto. Consider your mind blown.
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