Al dente, al forno, risottata… Advice from professionals to get the most out of pasta
The pasta was confirmed comfort food par excellence of the Italian even in the darkest moment: during 2020, in fact, in our pantries have entered more than 50 million boxes of pasta more , with spikes in purchases of approximately + 40% own in March and + 10% between October and November (processing of the Italian Food Union on IRI data). Over the last year it also appears that one in three Italians has experimented with new recipes (Doxa data), and that spaghetti and rigatoni have triumphed on social media, with almost 270 thousand citations in the last 6 months on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To explore such a beloved national theme, the Italian pasta makers of Unione Italiana Food they therefore decided to launch #PastaDiscovery , a cycle of virtual appointments on the ABC of pasta on the WeLovePasta social channels. On the first appointment dedicated to cooking, considered the main quality indicator for 8 out of 10 Italians, Cristina Bowerman (starred chef and president of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association) and Riccardo Felicetti (president of Italian pasta makers) explained the following.
Pasta, the 5 mistakes to avoid
Add oil to the cooking water. It is an ancient remedy to prevent pasta from attacking, when – until the 1960s and 1970s – the latter was based on a grain that was not selected for high temperatures. There are those who still use it, but in reality it is not needed with current pasta. Indeed, the oil could make the link between pasta and sauce more critical. Evo oil should only be added at the end of cooking to create the perfect emulsion. To prevent the pasta from sticking, just mix it carefully, especially in the first few minutes of cooking.
Put a little water in the pot . The pasta must «swim» in the pot: if the water is not sufficient, in fact, also due to a limited kinetic movement, it risks cooking unevenly. In general, the ratio would be that of one liter of water for every 100 grams of pasta (and 10 grams of salt).
Rinse the pasta to stop cooking. Many do it in the summer, to prepare recipes based on cold pasta, but in this way the starchy flavor is completely lost. Solution: drain it a few minutes early and then let it cool.
Salt the water too late . Salt should be added as soon as the water boils and before lowering the pasta. Otherwise, the salty water will not hydrate the pasta evenly (and up to its “soul”).
Treat formats in a similar way . Each type of pasta behaves differently in cooking. The time, the percentage of proteins, its drawing and the processing indicated in the package are a clue, but understanding its architecture will give us clues on how it will release its starch and how to make it reach your tooth. For example: the spaghetti, to enter the pot, must be folded within the first 90 seconds so that it cooks evenly. While the larger formats must be drained in advance to avoid unpleasant fractures on the palate.
Pasta, 8 different ways to cook it
In a pressure cooker . In the amatriciana of chef Davide Scabin the ingredients are all put in the pot, with 100ml of water instead of the canonical liter for 100 grams of pasta. Approximately 11 minutes should be counted from the start of cooking. This technique saves detergents, gas and energy (one pan is used instead of two) and water.
Passive cooking or by infusion . Another green method, which allows you to save gas and electricity. With passive cooking, the pasta cooks over a lit fire for only 2-4 minutes after the water resumes a boil. Then you turn off the stove and cover the saucepan with the lid to limit the dispersion of heat, leaving the pasta to infuse in the water (which will be absorbed) for the remaining time indicated on the package.
Express cooking. This method involves cooking in boiling water for 80% of the expected time and completing it for the last 2 minutes in the pan along with its seasoning. for perfect creaming.
Risotto cooking . We proceed, in fact, as for the risotto: first the pasta is lightly toasted, then gradually add the necessary liquid part (water or broth), continuing to mix until it is completely absorbed by the pasta. A perfect cooking for non-full-bodied condiments – such as garlic, oil and chilli or for spaghetti with clams– because the starch released will help to bind the pasta giving body to the dish. Three precautions are needed: the cooking liquid must be added little by little and always boiling to keep the temperature constant; it must be stirred continuously to favor the release of the starch necessary to form the cream; thicker pasta shapes should be pre-cooked in boiling water for half the required cooking time.
Double firing. A classic of restaurants, useful for future large tables. Two or three hours before serving, the pasta is cooked for half the time indicated, drained into a pan by adding a drizzle of oil and stored in the fridge, covering the pan. Finally, just soak the pasta for 30-60 seconds in boiling water and serve.
One pot pasta. A variant of risotto pasta loved by Michelle Obama, ecologists and lazy people, because using a single pot for cooking pasta and seasoning saves gas, electricity and utensils to wash. Start with cold water (for 200 grams of pasta you need 1.5l of water), gradually adding the ingredients of the sauce. Once it reaches a boil, the pasta is lowered. When all the water has evaporated, the dish is ready.
Bell cooking. The challenge of cold pasta is to stop cooking at the right point. The mistake, they said: cooling it by rinsing it under water or leaving it to overcook in a pot. The solution: bell cooking. Two thirds of the way through cooking (example: if the cooking time indicated on the package is 14 minutes, it should be boiled for about 10 minutes), the pasta should be drained well, transferred to a salad bowl and sealed with cling film. The film will swell “like a bell” and the cooking will be completed dry. In this way the pasta will remain intact, good and al dente even for the next day. The only trick: prefer small and short formats.
Baked pasta . The dry one should always be prelessata, generally al dente, but with some exceptions: if the sauce is rich and liquid it should be cooked for 2/3 of the expected time and then baked in a preheated oven to avoid overcooking it while waiting for the surface you colors. If, on the other hand, the choice falls on fresh or egg pasta, or on certain types of lasagna, pre-cooking is not necessary and it will be the natural humidity of the other ingredients to preserve the softness of the pasta even after cooking. The ideal temperature to obtain the surface crust varies according to the recipe and the format: for example, cannelloni should be cooked at a high temperature, even above 220 ° C, while lasagna gives their best at 180-200 ° C. at most. A curiosity: the baked pasta the next day is better because the passage in the oven dries most of the cooking water, then “photographs” the gelatinization of the starches and the consistency of the pasta, especially in the superficial layers, making it remain in a very similar to cooking al dente even for hours or days.
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