In terms of pasta cooking methodology, all I’ve ever known was to add dried pasta to boiling salted water. But have you ever considered a different, and debatably faster, method?
I first heard about this method on an episode of Alton Brown’s podcast, The Alton Browncast. He suggested adding noodles to salted water BEFORE bringing the water to the boil. While the concept might seem ridiculous or weird to you, I really recommend using this cooking method the next time you want to make pasta.
I think this technique works the best with small pastas like macaroni or penne, and quite frankly, those are usually the ones I have trouble cooking properly. Not only does this method cut down cooking time, it also makes it easier to get pasta cooked perfectly al dente….if you do it right.
My tips for trying this out:
1. Use a ratio of 4:1 in terms of water to pasta- too little water can really make a difference in the texture of the pasta.
2. Try not to keep the pot covered after five minutes or else it might boil over.
3. Stir the pasta occasionally, or add some oil to the pasta water. I found that this method results in less pasta sticking to each other, but it doesn’t hurt to stir every once in a while.
4. This cooking method is perfect for whole wheat pasta. Have you guys found that whole wheat pasta is really hard to cook properly? Mine used to always turn out soft on the outside and almost raw on the inside. Bringing whole wheat pasta to a boil with the water ensures that the inside is cooked through and takes away from the frustration that can be whole wheat pasta.
5. If you want to cook angel hair or spaghetti or any other long pasta like this, make sure you have enough water to cover, or just break the noodles in half so that they can fit in the pot. I used to never believe in breaking pasta in half, but it’s really not that different!
If you’ve never used this method before, give it a try and let me know your thoughts! Comment below or Tweet me, I appreciate all of your feedback!
It might seem tedious to suggest flavoring an ingredient that is already used to flavor food, flavored salts can be an easy alternative for bringing maximum taste to otherwise boring dishes. The idea of flavoring salt isn’t anything new; seasoning salts and spice rubs with salt have been on grocery store shelves for years. I’m a fan of brands like Old Bay and Adobo seasoning, I’m not a fan of all of the additives like MSG. Making your own flavored salt allows you to control and create whatever flavor combinations you want, without all of the extra added ingredients.
Another reason why I like flavored salts is that it’s really good way to take care of some loose ends around the kitchen. Is your garlic starting to sprout? Did you buy a whole bunch of rosemary or thyme when you only needed a few sprigs? Don’t let those go to waste, flavor your salt with it! The salt and the fact that it will dry out for a bit will help preserve it for at least a few months.
The key to flavoring salt is pretty simple and basically comes down to 3 steps:
1. Chop everything up with kosher salt. Aim for a 3:1 flavor-salt ratio.
2. Spread the salt out to dry for a day or so.
3. Store the salt in a clean container in a cool area.
To bring us back to the garlic that is two days from becoming a full grown plant or the rest of those herbs you have no idea what to do with (or both!), get those as dry as you can and with about a third of it’s amount in salt, chop them all up together. There must be a lot more flavoring than salt. It will sound weird and it might kind of damp at first, but just keep chopping until everything is the size that you want. Transfer the salt mixture to a sheet or pan. I would suggest putting a layer or parchment paper on top, but it’s not necessary. Leave the salt in a dry place, either on your countertop or even the oven with the light turned on, and let it dry out for at least 6 hours, best overnight. After it’s all dried out, you’ll have your own flavored salt that can really be used as a substitute for salt in anything.
I recently made one with rosemary, and lemon zest. I’ll marinate meat with it, roast vegetables with it, or add it to popcorn or salads. I even substituted it for regular salt when I made sugar cookies. The possibilities are endless for both what you can flavor the salt with and what you can add the salt on.
Some suggestions for flavoring:
1. Thai chiles (seeded), Thai basil, and ginger – Southeast Asian salt
2. Thyme, rosemary, tarragon – Provencal salt
3. Cilantro, cumin, and garlic or shallots
There are so many combinations of cool ingredients, try some out and let me know how they go!