How to 8 : Cook Perfect Pasta

Who doesn't love a nice bowl of steaming hot pasta? -Well, maybe not if it's soggy and overcooked or stuck together and crunchy in the middle... actually, pasta is pretty easy to cook okay, but to do it really well, so that it would taste good even on its own, needs a little practice. This month's "how-to" shares a few pasta-cooking tips to make sure it comes out perfect every time.
There are so many different shapes of pasta, each designed for a slightly different function, eg: ridged pasta shells (conchiglie), twists (fusilli) or bows (farfalle) can hold a chunkier sauce, whereas the simpler shapes such as spaghetti, macaroni or tagliatelle go best with blended or creamy sauces. We most often cook pasta as bakes or salads, so macaroni or twists/ bows reign supreme in our cupboard, though I do like to have spaghetti on hand for those pesto moments. Today I used wholemeal bows. We prefer wholemeal pasta; it's an acquired taste, but once you acquire it white pasta just won't do. Actually, this is our first pasta tip: it's a lot more difficult to overcook wholemeal pasta as its coarser and retains a "bite" for longer.

1: Raw dry wholemeal pasta bows.

2: Make sure your water is fast-boiling before you add the pasta. Putting the lid on while you do this makes it happen quicker.

3: Add a little seasalt and a very little olive oil to the water. Salt adds a bit of flavour and the oil will prevent the pasta sticking together- but too much and the pasta will be slippery when cooked and the sauce won't stick to it.

4: Give the pasta a stir when it first goes into the pot to make sure it doesn't  all stick together. Keep the water boiling steadily, but leave the lid off to avoid it boiling over.

5: How to tell if it's cooked al dente? (soft, but with a little resistance in the middle) check regularly; most types of pasta will cook in 8-12 minutes. Take out a piece and cut it in half. You should see a paler strip through the middle where it's not quite as soft; that's when it's al dente. Drain in a colander, and NEVER leave cooked pasta in its water, unless you enjoy eating slimy goo! Only rinse pasta if you are putting it into a salad.

6: For serving, this kind of spoon is great as it keeps hold of slippery bits and has a drainage hole for any last drops of water.

If this has inspired you, here are some links to our pasta recipes:


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