Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pastasciutta and pizza are iconic Italian foods . You probably know Spaghetti alla Bolognese, the most known method of preparing pasta in the world. That is just one of the endless possibilities you have to pastas.

Pasta is quick to prepare, comes in many different sizes and shapes, and can be accompanied by an almost limitless number of sauces. You can eat pasta every day and yet never have the same dish appearing before you. Hoever, pasta is very high on carbs , so it is actually not recommended to have pasta for lunch and dinner every day.

 This guide is easy and the instructions are simple to follow. Let's start with a summary of the steps for a perfect pasta :

First, cooking pasta means actually cooking the pasta and the sauce. While cooking the pasta itself is basically made by the one step of throwing the pasta in boiling water, the sauce can be a more complicate affair. I will give you recipes for two easy sauces, which is very popular in Italy. Since the basic steps are more or less the same, you can go on and create your own sauce from there.

Secondly, each type of pasta has a cooking time which is usually indicated on the package. Cook pasta for less than the cooking time, and it will remain hard. Exceed the cooking time and it will become softer and softer. Go well beyond the cooking time and congratulations! You have inedible glue! Italians like our pasta al dente , that means a little hard. You usually get it al dente by cooking it for exactly the indicated cooking time. But since foreigners often prefer their pasta soft, you may find on the package a cooking time that reflects this and advises you to cook the pasta for much more time than an Italian would. Since pasta is cheap, you can throw away a little and experiment until you find your perfect cooking time .

Third point, no ketchup . No ketchup. Repeat with me: No ketchup. Ever. Ok, lets start.

Take a pot , fill it with water for 3/4 of its capacity and put it on the stove, heating it until it boils. Put a lid on, to make it boil faster. When the water boils, add sale grosso or cooking salt. Its salt in big grains of irregular shapes. You can use the finer table salt as it wont change the flavour, but you will need a lot more and its harder to measure the right quantity. You may find that for you, it might be easier to get the right quantity of salt by using table salt. The right quantity of salt is a personal taste affair, experiment until you find yours. Why do we wait until the water boils to add salt? Because salted water takes longer to reach the boiling point .

Adding salt right away will not affect the final flavour, but it will lengthen the time to reach the boiling point. After adding salt, wait half a minute, then put the pasta in . Put the p asta in the water when it boils, not before, or you will ruin it! Wait for the cooking time indicated on the package, stir the pasta often to avoid it gluing to the surface of the pot. Now, cooking pasta is simple and there are no secrets in it. But there is one trick . Pasta is like a sponge: it absorbs the fluid in which its immersed. Cooking it immersed in water is ok, but cooking it immersed in the sauce is better! It will be flavoured by the sauce from the inside . So here's the trick- one minute before the cooking time is over pour one or two table spoons of cooking water from the pot in the pan where you are heating the sauce, then strain the pasta out of the water and pour it in the pan , mixing it with the sauce and ending the cooking time in there. Let it heat for a minute, a minute and a half, then take the pan from heat and serve your pasta. Thats it, true Italian-style pasta .

Now, recipes of the sauces . The first one is a classic, tomato sauce.

Put a table spoon of oil in a frying pan, add tomato sauce, a hint of pepper or finely minced chilli pepper, let it heat for 5-6 minutes stirring from time to time, pour the pasta in the pan, keep cooking for a minute more. When its ready, take out from heat, add a few leaves of basil and serve. Of course you will be heating the sauce while the pasta is cooking in the boiling water.

The second one is zucchini and shrimps . Put a table spoon of oil in a frying pan, add the zucchini, the shrimps (without shells) and spray lightly with pepper. Let cook on low fire for 10 minutes stirring from time to time, then add the pasta and keep heating for a minute more, stirring the mix. When its ready, take out from heat and serve.

There you are. Original Italian pasta .

To save time I usually prepare the sauce and start heating it while I wait for the water to boil and for the cooking time to be over. You can also prepare a variety of sauces in advance and freeze them , taking them out of the freezer when you need them, letting them unfreeze naturally or microwaving them, then heating in the pan while the pasta is cooking up. You can also use industrial made sauces, theres nothing wrong in that. Remember: the only trick is to heat the sauce in a pan, cook the pasta one minute less than suggested, then pour it along with a couple spoons of cooking water in the pan and finish cooking the sauce and the pasta together in the pan .

Buon appetito!


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