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!
Basic Marinara Sauce (feeds 4-6 people comfortably)
I came up with this recipe one day when I was really craving some pasta and didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes to make sauce. In the past, whenever I made marinara sauce, I stuck with either all fresh tomatoes or all canned. I never mixed. Who knew.
Extra virgin olive oil
5 regular sized tomatoes
a 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut tomatoes into cubes. The smaller, the faster they will cook and the less chunky your sauce will be..i.e. if you like chunky marinara sauce, cut tomatoes into half inch cubes. Mince the garlic and dice the onion the same size as the tomatoes. Consistency is key.
2. In a pot over medium heat, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and add the minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the diced onion. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.If they start to brown, turn the heat down.
3. Once the onions are soft, add in the fresh tomatoes. At this point, its okay to turn the heat up a little more. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt. This will not only help the tomatoes break down faster, it will also provide flavor. Once the tomatoes are cooked and broken down, after around 5 or 6 minutes, add in the can of crushed tomatoes.
4. Mix the sauce well and add in the dried herbs. Stir well and cover the pot and turn the heat up to high. Once the sauce has boiled, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the sauce cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta and enjoy!
PS: This sauce is really nice because it’s a complete canvas for you to add whatever you have or want. Bolognese? Add ground meat right after the garlic and onions start to sweat a little. Have some bell peppers/any vegetable in your fridge? Dice them up and saute them after the onions! Remember to keep them cut similar sizes so they’ll cook evenly. If you like your veggies crispy, add it after the tomatoes instead. Vodka sauce? Add a shot of vodka before adding the tomatoes and make sure the alcohol has cooked off a little. Then add the tomatoes and let them cook down. Add a little bit of heavy cream after the sauce has come to a boil and turn down the heat to let it simmer. The possibilities are endless.
Have fun and tell me your thoughts!