When to Know Your Pasta is Cooked – as part of the expert series by GeoBeats.
Today we are going to make the perfect pasta. Some people make pasta that is too al dente, some that is too mushy. How do you make the perfect pasta? Well, you start first with a really big pot. Fill it with cold water, yep that is right, cold water – do not take a short cut and think I will use hot it will be faster to boil, no no, and I will tell you why. Cold water comes through the faucet clean, hot water has a greater tendency to dissolve things along the way. So if there is any kind of substances lining your pipes, maybe you have old pipes or dirty pipes, who knows, the hot water which dissolves some particles along the way and then it enters into your pot and you do not want that.
So start with cold water, bring it to a boil, I have got that almost happening here, I can see steam coming off, I am moments away from a boil. And once it reaches a boil I am going to add a generous amount of salt – I mean generous, at least two tablespoons. First of all most of it is going to drain away in the water and a little bit of it will season our pasta, which is what we want. So I will add generous two tablespoons or so of salt to the water and make sure it is really boiling and then add all your pasta all at once. Stir it up and what is happening is that the water is so hot and boiling that it begins to cook and set the outside of the strands of the pasta, which is what you want. If you put into water just like I have here, not boiling yet, it is not hot enough yet, the outside of the strands of the pasta just start to get warm up and they get mushy, which is not the texture we are looking for.
So it is really important that you add it to boiling water and bring the water back to a boil as quickly as possible. You will not need the cover. You will stir the pasta and keep stirring every now and then just to keep things moving around and not sticking. And after about eight minutes, you will start to check to see if the pasta is done to your liking. Do not pay attention to the directions on the package because everybody’s pot, everybody’s stove, humidity, all of those factors vary, so taste it. That is the only way to know for sure. So after about eight minutes you will to start tasting strands of pasta, just a little bite. It should be tender on the outside and a little bit of a bite, a little al dente in the center – firm in the center. That is the perfect texture. And remember, after you take it out of the pot, it is still hot. There is some residual cooking that is happening so it does not have to be perfection as it comes out of the pot, it can be very close. So better to be a little bit undercooked when it comes out of the pot than overcooked. There is no going back and no one likes mush.
So, we will let this come to a boil, we will add our pasta and let it cook for about eight, nine, ten minutes, who knows, we will have to check. So I add the salt and I said to be generous so we are going to be really generous with that. We add all the salt, we add all the pasta all at the same time. Once it is in we give it a stir, bring it back to a boiling point as quickly as possible. And it is still doing very nicely, it is still boiling, that is great. I can adjust the heat a little bit so I do not boil over, but keep it boiling. And then I will set the timer for about eight minutes and I will start checking the pasta at that point until I know it is done. So I am ready to taste, I pull out one strand – really hot – and I take a bite. It is perfect! Tender on the outside, a little firm in the center, ready to go. So I take this whole pot, pour it through a colander in the sink. Drain it, put it in a bowl and add the sauce. Any sauce you like – boulinese, pesto, primivera, white clam sauce, a machochiana cheese sauce, you name it. Go forth and enjoy your pasta.