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Jewish Journal

Rules for an Al Dente Pasta

by Elana Horwich

January 11, 2013 | 7:45 am

You will need:

  • large pot of water
  • kosher salt
  • a timer/stopwatch to help you stay on task.
  • one pound (one box) pasta- serves 4 people

(Best brands for pasta are DeCecco, Barilla, Garofalo (available at CostCo) and Tinyada Brown Rice Pasta*)

  1. Always use a big pot of boiling water, even if you are making pasta only for one. The pasta needs to “breathe” while it cooks.
  2. Once water boils, throw in a full handful of salt. Yes, a handful. Just do it.
  3. Put in the pasta all at once, i.e. not put in one handful after the other or you will mess up cooking times.
  4. Stir pasta a couple times at the beginning to make sure it doesn’t stick. Spaghetti and all brown rice pasta needs extra stirring. Get your tongs* in there!
  5. YELL TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS: “ Butto la pasta. I am throwing in the pasta.” This lets them know they have about 10 minutes to finish up whatever they are doing and to get ready to be at the table the moment the pasta is served.
  6. Don’t leave wooden spoon or tongs in the pasta water while it is cooking.
  7. Colander must be put in sink now, early. If you fumble for it later, you risk mushy pasta, which is punishable by law in certain parts of Italy.
  8. Do NOT go on the computer while your pasta is cooking. You are risking mushy pasta. which is punishable by law in Italy.
  9. If you must step away from the pasta, set a timer for 4 minutes before the pasta is said to be ready, according to box instructions.
  10. Start testing pasta for done-ness 3 minutes before it is supposed to be ready, according to package instructions.
  11. If your sauce has been turned off, turn the flame on again to medium to make sure it is heated through.
  12. All crunchiness in pasta should be gone and the intense chewiness should just be giving way to a softer texture. Stop. You are done.
  13. 30 Seconds too much or too little DOES make a difference. (When in doubt: Better to undercook a tad than to overcook it.)
  14. Drain pasta.
  15. DO NOT RINSE PASTA. The starch on the pasta is what marries the sauce to the noodles.
  16. YELL TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS: “La pasta e` pronta. The pasta is ready”. This is when they need to come to the table.
  17. Raise flame of sauce to a “fuoco vivace”, lively flame  (medium-high to high ) and pour drained pasta into it.
  18. Use tongs* or two big forks or wooden spoons to TOSS (and not mix) the pasta and sauce together.
  19. Serve onto individual plates and top with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or fresh parsley or mint  if the dish calls for it.
  20. FINAL IMPORTANT RULE: the pasta is to be eaten immediately. There is no such thing as letting it sit until you are ready to eat. If you are not ready, do not go past step 1. The pasta is a demigod in Italian culture. It’s readiness dictates your readiness. If someone is late to the table, you do not wait for them to eat. The pasta is ready. Eat it now!!

 

* Shop for these items here.

Want to join Meal and a Spiel for cooking classes? Click here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Elana Horwich is the founder of Meal and a Spiel, a boutique Beverly Hills cooking school and online recipe resource based on the philosophy that anyone can learn to cook. Her...

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