publication date: Aug 24, 2011
author/source: Fiona Beckett
Most people have tried their hand at cooking pasta. Not many do it well.
The most common mistakes are to cook it in too little water, to cook it too long and to cook too much so it lies around in a great sticky mass.
Ideally it’s best to buy Italian dried pasta whenever it’s on special offer. Good brands are Buitoni, Barilla and De Cecco. It generally takes slightly longer to cook which may put you off but the taste and texture is worth it.
You need a big deep pan like this for boiling pasta and a lot of water - about three kettlefuls for 400g pasta (enough for four) Add salt once the water is boiling then add the pasta, giving it a stir so that it doesn’t stick together or push it down into the water in the case of spaghetti or linguine.
Bring back to the boil and cook uncovered for the time recommended on the pack, generally around 10 minutes for spaghetti or penne and about 3 minutes for flat egg-based pastas like tagliatelle.Towards the end of the cooking time fish out a strand or a piece of pasta and bite into it. If it’s still hard cook a minute or two more. If it’s firm but yielding (al dente) it’s done. If it’s soggy it’s overcooked.
Scoop out a little of the cooking water with a cup to add to your sauce (a useful trick that lightens up the finished dish) then drain the pasta in a colander. Toss immediately with whatever sauce you’re using or divide up between plates and spoon the sauce over the top. If you have any pasta left over toss it with a little olive oil to stop it sticking together.
Egg pasta can be served quite simply with butter and parmesan or grana padano if you haven’t got much else in the way of ingredients available.
Is it worth buying fresh pasta?
Generally not - it’s more expensive and the taste isn’t any better. The exception are filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini which are better fresh.
Tomorrow: some simple pasta sauces that don’t come out of a jar