Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cooking Tip of The Week: Pastas


With my love for cooking and in doing so very often I learn new things in my kitchen every day. The best way of doing so is through trial and error. I really do 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 with you.

Today's tips 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, under-cooked etc. 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 will be helpful to you in your future cooking ventures. 

Pastas:

Cooking Time:

This may sound like common sense but so many forget to do this simple step- if you are using store bought dry pasta always check the back of the box for recommended cooking times there. For example, 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 lot less time. Getting the pasta cooked perfectly truly does come down to very precise timing along with personal preference. The cooking time also depends on the size of the pasta pieces. Smaller and thinner pieces take a shorter amount of time to cook and larger, thicker 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 & following that will be your best bet. 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.

Fun 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. At this point, make sure to stir with a spoon or fork immediately  This first mix is very essential as the pieces may 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 get each and every piece cooked properly.

These simple tricks will help the pasta cook evenly and taste it's best.



Pasta Toppings and Sauces:

Combine the chosen prepared sauce with the pasta only immediately before serving because:

a) you will want to have the sauce be warm. 
b) the pasta will get softer and less appetizing while waiting.
c) some sauces tend to solidify onto the pasta instead of staying saucy as intended while waiting to be served.

The same goes for added cheeses. If you add the cheese and then serve hours later it will just clump in certain areas and not spread out 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.

If you are preparing your own sauce which consists of any of the following ingredients- cheeses, flour, sugar or cornstarch you will want to stand over it all the while and stir it as it cooks up or it will easily burn. If your sauce does burn on the bottom at all during preparation I would recommend tossing it and starting over as it will have the burnt taste even if you have separated the sauce from the burnt part.


Straining and Serving:

Always strain the pasta as soon as it's reached it's correct cooking time, otherwise the pieces can often continue to cook once the fire is already closed and get softened 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 as it sits, to avoid the pasta getting hard or stuck together. 


Storing and Reserving:

Whenever you have an open box of uncooked pasta pour the pieces into a tightly closed Tupperware or other storage piece to avoid it getting stale while it's being stored for another time.

I recommend  only reserving already cooked pasta for 24 hours at the most. Keeping it in a tightly sealed Tupperware container in the refrigerator separate from it's sauce will be the  best choice.    

Freezing sauces to be used at a later date can be done for convenience.  My advice is to always write the date of freezing on the lid of the container with a permanent marker and avoid keeping it too long. Leftovers, reserving and freezing are all not things I do much in my house but if it works well for you then go ahead!


And now I have just a few little questions for you, feel free to leave the answers, any of your tips and tricks for preparing pastas or anything else you like in the comments form below, I love to hear from you!!

 1) Do you like to prepare your own sauce or do you like to purchase the store bought ones for convenience?  

2) What is your favorite pasta dish and Would you rather cook it on your own or do you  most often choose to save it exclusively for restaurant occasions?

3) Do you make your own pasta dough or would you rather purchase the dry boxed ones?

I hope my tips and tricks will be helpful to you when you are in the kitchen. 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. My only wish now is to get a pasta machine of my own!

Thanks for stopping in!

Wishing you all a very, very wonderful 4th of July/Independence Day!

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XX. Gigi.

6 comments:

  1. Loved this informative pasta post, Thanks Gigi, pasta is my staple food, lol, and I have learnt a lot from you here. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you Sam! mine as well I could eat macaroni and cheese every night and never get sick of it! xx.

      Delete
  2. What a useful post dear Gigi, thank you for sharing it :))
    www.simimaus.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! i'm glad you found it informative!

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