I am by no means an expert on cooking, baking and all things imbetween. But with my love for cooking and in doing so very often I learn new things in the kitchen every day. The best way of doing so is through trial and error. I learn by making mistakes and I tend to make many before realizing the perfect patterns and techniques. There are some easy tips and tricks I've picked up over time and I thought it would be fun to share them.
Today's tips and tricks are going to revolve around one specific food type: pasta. I know it sounds silly to talk about a classic food like this but how often does pasta get burnt, overcooked, undercooked etc. Also pastas come in all shapes, sizes and brands as well as there are being many different options when it comes to sauces so it can easily get confusing. I hope this can be helpful to you in your future cooking ventures.
This may sound like common sense but so many forget to do this simple step- if you are using store bought dry pasta in a box always check the back of the box and there should be recommended cooking times there. I like my pasta cooked all the way through, my husband on the other hand likes his pasta al dente' which is cooked for a little less time so getting the pasta cooked perfectly does come down to very precise timing. The cooking time also depends on the size of the pasta pieces. Smaller pieces take a shorter amount of time to cook and larger pieces take longer to cook. For homemade pasta dough you will need to feel it out on your own since all homemade doughs are different. But if you are following a recipe for the dough it should definitely have the directed amount of time written somewhere so follow that. If you are using store bought wonton wraps for a ravioli or such, always double wrap since they are very thin and will fall apart in the bubbling water. They should be cooked for about 2-3 minutes at the most or again they tend to just fall apart.
Random Fact: Ronzoni is my preferred store bought brand of pasta from all the rest I've tried at the grocery.
Methods of Cooking:
Use a larger sized pot when cooking a half lb. or more of pasta to avoid overcrowding the pieces which can sometimes cause uneven cooking.
Never place the pasta in the pot before the water, that can soften the pieces down even before they start cooking and cause unevenness as well. You will want to start by filling the pot about 3/4 of the way full with water. Bring the flame to around the medium mark lowering it a little once it comes to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt as it brings the water to a boil faster and gives the pasta taste later on. A good trick is to then add 1 teaspoon of oil as well. This keeps the pasta from sticking to each other and to the bottom of the pot helping them cook perfectly. As soon as the water has come to a rolling boil pour the pasta into the pot. Make sure to stir with a spoon as soon as you place the pasta in the water. This first mix is very important. They will stick to the bottom of the pot and each other if they are not stirred right away. Then stand close by to the pot and stir every minute or so, to again avoid sticking.
These simple tricks will help the pasta cook evenly and taste to best.
Straining and Serving:
Always strain the pasta as soon as it's reached it's correct cooking time, otherwise they can continue to cook once the fire is already closed and get mushy while sitting in the water.
The pasta cooking water is a great addition to many sauces so feel free to reserve a 1/2 cup or so before straining.
If you don't plan to serve the pasta right away, then immediately after straining place the pasta in a large bowl. Stir a tablespoon of oil in every hour or so that it sits to avoid the pasta getting hard and keep the pieces apart.
Pasta Toppings and Sauces:
Combine the chosen prepared sauce with the pasta only immediately before serving for the same reason as straining it right away.
The same goes for added cheeses. If you add the cheese and then serve hours later it will clump onto certain areas and not spread evenly throughout the pasta. If you are serving right away, feel free to stir it right in. If you plan to wait a couple of hours, reheat the pasta in an oven a few minutes to serving and then stir the cheese into the hot pasta to melt it and disperse it throughout the whole dish.
Stirring a Romano or Parmesan cheese through the pasta before pouring in the sauce can help the sauce stick to the pasta better.
If you are preparing your own sauce which consists of any of the following ingredients- cheeses, flour or sugar you will want to stand over it all the while as it cooks up or it will easily burn. If your sauce does burn on the bottom at all during preparation I wouldn't recommend putting it into the pasta as it will have the burnt taste even if you have separated the sauce from the burnt part.
Storing and Reserving:
Whenever you have an open box of uncooked pasta pour the pieces into a tightly closed Tupperware or other container to avoid it getting stale while it's being stored for another time.
If you have some cooked pasta which you would like to reserve I recommend only saving pasta for a day or so in a refrigerator closed in a tightly sealed container separate from it's sauce- also in a tightly sealed container.
Freezing sauces to be used at a later date can be done. Always write the date of freezing on the lid of the container with a permanent market and avoid keeping it too long. Leftovers, reserving and freezing are not really something I do much in my house but if it works well for you go ahead.
I hope my ideas will be helpful to you. I for one am a huge fan off all pastas! These are just some things that work well for me in getting my ultimate pasta dish prepared.
all pictures in this post were derived from google. if a photo is yours and you would like it removed please contact me by email or in the comments section below and I will gladly comply immediately.
Some quick pasta related questions:
1. What is your favorite brand of store bought pasta from the supermarket or farmers market or wherever else it can be purchase?
2. Do you like to prepare your own sauce or would you rather purchase the store bought ones?
3. What's your favorite store bought brand of sauce?
4.What's your favorite type of pasta dish that you cook on your own or most often choose to order when you are at a restaurant?
5.Do you make your own pasta dough or would you rather purchase the dry boxed ones?
Do you have some tricks of your own that help you in preparing pastas? Leave them below in the comments form along with the answers to any or all of the questions above.. I absolutely love hearing from my readers, learning new things when it comes to cooking and I'm sure others will appreciate them as well!
Have an amazing day!