The Right Way to Cook Pasta
By Global Master Chef Karl Guggenmos,
Senior Culinary Advisor at Healthy Meals Supreme
We can all agree that pasta, with its unending versions and uses, is one of the most favorite side dishes around the world. It was no different in my home as a child. I still see my mom and my sister working together in our small kitchen rolling out the dough by hand, making precision cuts and shapes and hanging the fresh pasta on strings over the huge wooden cutting board. Of course I tried to sneak a few pieces of the raw, uncooked pasta to taste and very quickly faced the wrath of my quintessential Bavarian mom.
So I waited patiently, until the big pot was put on the stove, filled with simmering water, and watched mom drop the pasta in the pot. Our favorite pasta was the famous “Spaetzle”, a wet pasta dough made with whole eggs, flour and milk. The dough was first grated into simmering water, then strained out and immediately dropped in a sauté pan smothered with butter, fried onions and sometimes fresh grated emmental cheese.
Many times pasta was the main course….no meat and just a green salad and potato salad served alongside. Whether your choice is spaetzle, an Italian type — from Spaghetti to Fettuccine — or the rice noodles of Asia, we just can’t get enough of it.
o Always use a large pot. Pasta needs to be able to float freely with room to expand.
o Fill the pot ¾ full with water or stock. Again the pasta needs to be able to float freely and move around to cook evenly and prevent sticking.
o Add some salt if only using water. I love to add a Vegetable Base or a light stock depending on what the pasta is served with. This way the pasta will absorb the flavor and provide a most delicious flavor profile.
o Always first bring the liquid to a full boil and then place the pasta in the pot. This allows the pasta to cook immediately and prevent a mushy texture.
o Keep stirring the pasta with a long, round wooden or plastic spoon to prevent the pasta from sticking and allow for even cookingץ
o Fresh pasta will take about 3-4 minutes to cook. Dried pasta will take 10-15 minutes depending on the type. Asian dried noodles may take a shorter time.
o Test the pasta before it’s done by using a slotted spoon to pull out some pasta with your fingers and test for doneness by squeezing a couple of strings. The pasta should be stringy but not like hardened gum. Don’t over cook the pasta. You know it’s over cooked when it is rubbery, mushy or breaks apart when touched.
o When the pasta is cooked, scoop some of the liquid and save it. It is perfect for making the accompanying sauce.
o Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot or use right away by sautéing or tossing it in butter, oil or adding to a sauce.
o Do not rinse the pasta in cold water as it will lose most of its flavor as well as some texture. If it is to be stored, add a little oil to the warm pasta, mix well, let it cool and refrigerate.
o Finish as desired and serve.