Pasta is an integral part of every authentic Italian meal and you do not need to be a culinary expert to make a delicious pasta meal. It’s important to know the basics in order to create the perfect balance of pasta, sauce and fresh ingredients.
Pasta should be prepared just before serving
- Use a tall, large pot filled no more than ¾ with water. If there is too much water in the pan it may boil over, and too little water will not allow the past to cook properly.
- Use a 6 to 8 quart capacity pot to prepare one pound of pasta.
- The temperature of the water used to fill the pot does not affect the end result of the pasta. However, using hot tap water will allow the water to come to a boil faster.
Salt the water
- Salting the water brings out the natural flavor of the pasta.
- Salt must be added once the water has started to boil. If the salt is added too late, it will not be absorbed correctly into the pasta. Adding salt too early may lengthen the boiling time.
- Allow the salt to dissolve before adding the pasta.
- If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, please follow your doctor’s orders. Adding salt is optional and a matter of taste.
Do NOT add oil to the water
- Choose a premium pasta with superior ingredients. When a poor-quality wheat is used, the pasta releases too much starch and sticks together.
- Olive oil does nothing for the taste of pasta and its usage will make the pasta slippery, allowing the sauce to “slide” off the pasta.
- Italians do not use olive oil when cooking pasta.
Follow the cooking times on the package
- For perfect pasta, follow the cooking times on the package. However, it is a good idea to taste the pasta just before draining to make sure it suits your taste.
- Pasta has been cooked properly when it is soft on the outside, but the inside is still a little hard. In authentic Italian cooking, this is called al dente.
Drain pasta immediately after it is done cooking
- Drain pasta into a large colander and toss it gently to remove excess liquid.
- The pasta should remain moist but not dripping wet.
- Pasta should not be rinsed after cooking unless for a pasta salad recipe. The natural starches released from the pasta complement the pasta because they help “bind” the sauce that is to be used, and allow the sauce to adhere better to the pasta.
- Always save a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water; it may be needed to dilute the sauce or in sauteing the pasta with the sauce before serving.
- In Italy, pasta is usually undercooked in the water by about three minutes. Pasta is then transferred to a saute pan with the prepared sauce, and then cooked with the sauce for additional three minutes allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors of the sauce.
Add sauce and serve immediately
- When pasta is drained it is still cooking. Therefore, the sauce should be added quickly.
- Pasta should be served hot.
- Italians use very little sauce with their pasta – just enough to coat it.
- To finish the pasta, top with Parmesan cheese, a little freshly ground black pepper, or olive oil.