Pasta cooking is always fraught with peril. Overcooked, and the whole bowl disintegrates into a pastey, congealed lump. Undercooked, and diners are left chewing rubbery strands for hours. It’s a fine balance. Fortunately, the Twisted chefs have brought their heads together to come up with a few fool proof hacks for pasta perfection.
Amateurs take note: follow this handy guide, and master the art of cooking everyone’s favourite Italian export.
1. Dry is fine
Many cooks looking to recreate the authentic Italian experience make the mistake of demanding fresh pasta or nothing. While fresh may be preferable for pastas such as tortellini and ravioli, the reality is that for most common pastas such as spaghetti and farfalle, dry works just as well, if not better. Even in Italy, homecooks will rarely bother with fresh for dishes using spaghetti, linguine and pappardelle.
2. Use a shallow pan
When you’re feeling particularly ravenous, it’s always tempting to grab whatever you have to hand and fill it to the brim. However, your pan choice for pasta is just as important as it is for any other cooking. We recommend using a shallow pan, as it not only boils the water more quickly, but also allows the pasta to spread out - cooking the pan’s contents more evenly.
3. Wet and salty
Whereas some foods, such as rice and other grains, demand precise measurements of water, pasta is nothing like as finicketty. All you have to do is ensure that you have enough water to easily cover the pan’s contents and add a generous quantity of salt. This will season the pasta as it cooks and means that your sauce will require less salt to compensate.
4. Dropping the spaghetti
Spaghetti can be notoriously tricky to handle. While eating it is one of the messiest activities in the food world, getting it in a pan can be doubly frustrating. In order to avoid a clump of the sticky strands collecting in a corner, a simple trick is to take a measure of dry pasta in two hands, place upright in the bottom of the pan, twist your top hand counter-clockwise and release. The spaghetti will be miraculously distributed across the entire pan.
5. Undercook by two-minutes
While no-one enjoys raw pasta, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Not only are most pasta packages notoriously over-generous when it comes to time management anyway, but al dente is always preferable to flabby. Not only do you have the option of cooking a little more if absolutely necessary, but adding hot sauce can help tip pasta to perfect without the danger of overcooking.
6. Throw it
Rather than endlessly chewing and re-chewing the pasta to see if it’s ready, there is a simple test for tile loving kitchen owners. Take a strand of spaghetti or other noodle-like pasta and throw it at an upright tiled surface. If the pasta sticks to it, it is ready to eat! Note, this does not work for chunkier pastas such as fusilli or ravioli - you’ll just look daft.
7. Never drain fully
Given that pasta water ends up looking like rancid milk, it’s easy to think that it belongs down the sink. However, the starchy liquid is absolutely essential to great pasta cookery. The water helps to loosen the strands and avoid a sticky finish, as well as giving sauces a silken sheen that takes food from average to yummy.
Given that it forms the cornerstone of basic student diets everywhere, it’s easy to take pasta for granted. However, by following these Twisted tips, you can turn any pasta dish into all killer, no filler. Bid goodbye to soggy noodles and bland bowls forever. Great pasta cooking awaits.