Pasta may be one of the best foods on the planet. Unfortunately a lot of people do not know how to shop for it or cook it properly. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last year about pasta is that “good pasta tastes good”. I learned what I know about pasta mainly from two sources, Alton Brown and Ari Weinzweig, the author of “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating“. I am here to share the knowledge I have gathered with you today.
Like I mentioned above “good pasta tastes good”. Pasta should be more than just a way to deliver sauce to your mouth. It should have some flavor to it. Ari says that all a good pasta needs is a bit of good quality olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste good. You can taste the different between the good stuff and the cheap garbage. Cheap pastas are brittle. They look like they will shatter into a million pieces if you squeeze hard enough. When cooking cheap pastas they tend to go from being al dente to a mushy mess in seconds. So I never reach for the cheapest thing on the shelve. But don’t worry good pasta doesn’t have to break your bank (although pasta that does is probably pretty good!). All you need to do is look for the following on the bag or box.
1. Made with durum semolina
2. Made with bronze dies or plates
Pasta that is just made with regular flour will not have the depth of flavor of that made with durum semolina. It is also important that the pasta is made by using bronze dies or plates. The dies are used to give pasta its shape. Some companies use Teflon-coated dies because they last longer and make the shapes faster. The problem is in that pastas made with Teflon dies tend to produce pasta that is really smooth. Smooth pasta does not hold onto sauce very well.
One of my favorite pastas to buy is made by Delallo. I often find them on sale at different grocery stores for around $1 a bag. When you find a deal like that, stock up. You can also buy their pasta online. They also have a line of whole wheat and organic pasta to choose from.
Now that you know how to shop for pasta, you need to know how to cook it right. Don’t just grab any old pot, throw some water in it, and cook it. Pasta is best cooked in a ton of water, at least a gallon of it in a large pot. That way you don’t have to worry about the pasta sticking. Some people add oil to the water to prevent sticking but there is no evidence that this actually works, and if you use enough water, it won’t be a problem anyway. Speaking of the water, it should taste like the ocean. Heavily salt your water before you add the pasta to the pot. This is your best chance to enhance the flavor of the pasta itself.
Take your pasta seriously and your taste buds will reward you. It’s not just all about the sauce. For pasta recipes, check out my pasta page.
For more of my “How-to” Lessons, visit this page.