Pasta: what it boils down to

October 29, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Yes, you need some skill to boil water for your pasta. Follow these tips described in The Kitchen Detective (America's Test Kitchen, 2003) and On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (Prentice Hall, 2002):

Use about 4 quarts (1 gallon or 16 cups) water per pound of pasta.

Add 1 tablespoon table salt per gallon of water, for flavor.

Do not add oil to water, and do not rinse pasta once it is cooked. (Sticky pasta holds sauce better.)

To bring water to a boil, place water in appropriately sized pan and bring to a rapidly bubbling point over high heat.

Add pasta, which will decrease the boiling. Allow to come back to full boil, adjusting temperature to maintain a boil.

To keep pasta from sticking, keep water boiling briskly and stir frequently. When pasta is ready, depending on its type and amount, remove from heat and prepare to drain in a colander.

Slightly undercook -- which will mean cooking slightly less than most box directions suggest -- because pasta will continue to cook as it cools and if added to a simmering sauce.

Before draining, dip a cup or two of pasta water from pan and put aside. This can be used to thin sauces or moisten pasta.

A preferred method for serving pasta is to cook sauce and pasta together for a few minutes before serving.

Match pasta with sauces -- bigger, thicker pasta with chunky sauces; fresh pasta with Alfredo; thinner pasta with smoother sauces.

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