Cooking pasta is really easy
until it goes wrong. And then it’s a disaster!
Sometimes it’s the seemingly simple things that prove to be the trickiest. So we've asked Durban Country Club Executive Chef, Xanthos Giannakopoulos to share with us some of the do’s and don’ts that will teach us to cook pasta perfectly, every time.
Make sure you use plenty of water to boil the pasta, 1 litre of water for every 100 grams of pasta.
Bring the water to a hard boil before you add salt around 10 grams of salt for every litre of water. Then pour in the pasta and return to boil.
Stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking and continue to boil, without a lid.
Use a large deep pot to create a rolling boil so the pasta is able to rotate and cook evenly.
Keep a little of the water to toss in after pasta is cooked, do not rinse the pasta as the starch assist with the sauce binding to the pasta.
Don’t over-cook. The pasta should be “al dente”, which means it should be “firm to the bite”, yet cooked through. It’s better to taste the pasta before draining it.
When it’s ready to drain the pasta, don’t rinse it with cold water. The pasta should be hot when mixed with the sauce. If you are using the pasta for cold salads you may rinse it with water or drip on a little oil to prevent it from sticking while it cools.
Do not break up full-length pasta, e.g. spaghetti, tagliatelle, fettuccini.
Do not soak or rinse pasta before the cooking process this will remove any starch in the cooking process.
Do not dry bake pasta that has not been boiled as the starch will not activate and cook evenly throughout.
Timing is important. The sauce and pasta should be ready at the same time. In many recipes such as carbonara, bad timing would result in bad pasta. Mix the pasta with the sauce as soon as it is ready. Leaving the pasta on its own might result in sticking.
“With very few exceptions, pasta should be served immediately. According to an Italian saying, “The guest should wait for the pasta, not the pasta for the guest!”, says Giannakopoulos.