When it comes to Italian cuisine, the country is divided into regions, with each region having its own favorite ingredients and cooking methods. Each is unique and each is authentic. When it comes to pasta, however, there is no disagreement. The love of pasta unites each region in the country.
Whether you are using dried pasta or fresh pasta, there are some rules to follow when preparing a pot of pasta. Many American cooks make one common mistake; we tend to overcook the pasta, making it soft. Taking the pasta off the stove a little bit sooner, when you think it isn’t quite ready, will bring the pasta closer to the Italian ideal.
Always start with a huge pot of cold, salted water. The pot of water should seem much too big for the pasta you are adding. Having lots of room for the pasta to move around in the pot will prevent the pasta from sticking to itself. And I did say salted water, didn’t I? Yes. Add plenty of salt.
Bring your pot of water up to a rapid boil, drop your pasta in, give it a spin, and turn the heat down. Cook it now in the slowly boiling water just until it’s al dente, or if you bite into a noodle, it bites back just a little. Immediately dump into a strainer or colander and DO NOT RINSE. This is another misconception. You don’t want to wash away all the salt and starch in the pasta; that’s where the flavor and texture is. Some folks like to add oil to the cooking water. That will help prevent the pasta from sticking to itself, but if you allow enough room for the pasta in the water, you won’t have a problem. Oil may prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta, however, so you can decide what’s best for your dish.
Add your sauce to the warm pasta and the flavors will intensify. You can spoon in a bit of the pasta cooking water if you want a saucier sauce. If your recipe calls for cold pasta, just let it sit out at room temperature. It will cool off pretty fast. Or, you may cover the pasta and set it in the refrigerator for just a few minutes. Stir it up and it will be cool.
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