Cooking Tips

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Myths About Cooking Pasta

Myth

Add olive oil to cooking water to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Truth

Lesser quality pastas tend to stick and clump. It is possible that the process of adding olive oil to cooking water started in order to prevent pasta from sticking and clumping. A good quality pasta should not stick or clump. Using olive oil is purely a waste of good oil, because it is left in the cooking water anyway. Also, a little bit of cooking water is usually reserved to help bind the sauce that is being used in the finished dish. By adding olive oil, the binding quality of the starches released in the water are offset by the slippery quality of the olive.

Myth

Throw pasta on the wall to see if it is ready.

Truth

The only thing that throwing pasta on a wall does is create a mess! Cut the pasta with a knife or fork, or bite it. Pasta, the authentic Italian way, should be slightly chewy with a very small white dot at the core.

Myth

All pasta is the same.

Truth

Home chefs should never blame themselves for pasta that turns out sticky, clumpy or breaks during cooking - itís the pasta! Choose a good-quality pasta for a perfect meal experience every time.

Myth

Rinse pasta after cooking and draining.

Truth

When pasta cooks, its natural starches are released in the cooking water. These starches complement the pasta meal because they help "bind" the sauce that is to be used, and allow the sauce to adhere better to the pasta. For the best meal experience, do not rinse your pasta after cooking and draining. The only exception to this rule is when preparing pasta salads. In this case, use cold water to rinse to prevent your pasta from overcooking.

Tips to make perfect pasta

Use a lot of water: the perfect quantity is from 4 to 6 liters per pound (453 g) of pasta. This way the pasta will have enough room to cook, but without sticking. Don't add oil. If you used the adequate amount of water, you won't need oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Add salt to give it more flavor, but not a lot, since the sauce will perform that same function. Stir the pasta when you add it to the water. This way you'll avoid it sticking or remaining at the bottom of the pot. Use the cooking time indicated on the package as a guide and taste it to see if it has the desired texture. Rinse the pasta only if you're going to use it cold, in salads.

Renew your pasta

Fresh and fast:

If you want a quick meal, fresh pasta, such as DiGiorno, is the solution. Mostly because it's ready in 3 to 4 minutes (be sure to follow the package's instructions, and not to cook it more than indicated, otherwise, it will turn out very soft). And fresh pasta - from linguine to ravioli - is easily obtained and it's a simple to way to transform an average meal into something special.

A dash of color:

To add appeal to your dishes, use green or orange pasta, made with spinach or red peppers.

More fiber:

If you want to add fiber to your diet, use whole wheat pasta, available in almost any variety, from spaghetti to penne.

Pasta Yields

When serving pasta, plan on 2 oz. pasta per person for main dishes. To prepare 4 servings, you will need 8 oz. of pasta, or 1/2 of a 16-oz. package. Use this chart to determine how much dry pasta to start with and to see the volume of cooked pasta you will end up with.

Types of pasta and thier uses

Long

From thin capellini to wide lasagna, long pasta cover a whole spectrum. Capellini (angel hair), Vermicelli, spagettini, spagetti and Linguine. Finer pastas go best with light sauces, with a tomato or broth base, that only coat the noodles. Fettuccine, Tagliatelle, Papardelle Lasagna and Bucatini. Wider pasta, such as fettuccini, go excellent with sauces of a medium to thick consistency, such as Alfredo. Lasagna and very wide pasta the thickest noodle of all is used in baked dishes.

Short

Whether tubular pasta, such as penne, or shaped, such as farfalle (bowtie pasta), short pastas go well with any sauce. Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle, Macaroni and Fusilli. Cavatelli, Rotelle, Cannelloni, Manicotti, Conchas and Ziti. Some short pastas have small ridges where the sauce gathers, ensuring that every mouthful is full of flavor. Shaped pastas come in every form, including bowties, shells and elbows. Cannelloni and manicotti, also shaped, are designed so they can be filled with meat or with a cheese based mix, covered with sauce and baked.