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Preparing Pasta

Everyday Food, Volume 28 December 2005

Getting Started
Use a large enough pot: For each pound of pasta, you will need at least 4 quarts of water. Add at least 2 tablespoons of coarse salt after the water comes to a boil.

Preventing Sticking
Enough water and frequent stirring will keep pasta from sticking. Do not add oil to the water -- this prevents sauces from clinging to the pasta. Always cook uncovered.

When Is It Done?
Pasta should be al dente (firm to the bite). If undercooked, it will have a chalky core and floury taste; if overcooked, it will be limp and soggy. When cooking pasta for baking later, it is especially important that it is al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Start tasting the pasta two to three minutes before the end of the cooking time given on the package.

Before draining the pasta, reserve one to two cups of the cooking water; it contains starch from the pasta that can add body to sauces. After draining, shake the colander a few times. Do not rinse (unless you want it to cool).

Reserving, Cooling, and Drying
To reserve pasta for a few minutes, drain, and toss with a little olive oil. To cool pasta for salad or manicotti, run under cold water while draining. To dry, spread pasta on a sheet pan, and pat with paper towels.


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