Pasta is one of those go to dishes that can always please a household. It’s easy to cook, you can make lots of it quickly, and it fills you up leaving everyone satisfied. Pasta is also a great base for lots of different hidden vegetables in your sauces. These added nutrients can offer needed vitamins and minerals. If you’re not a fan of bulking up sauces with vegetables, click here for more ways that Review Critic could help you stay healthy. But, once you’ve gotten all of your ingredients together, why does your pasta never come out like the professionals? Even if you followed a recipe exactly, why does your dish not taste like it just came out of the kitchen of a 5 star restaurant? Avoid these common pasta mistakes to help bring your pasta dish from sad to star!
1. Overcrowding The Pot
Not using enough water could be a huge mistake when cooking pasta. You want to use a pot big enough that, once the pasta is added, there are still a few inches of water left above the sinking pasta. As a good rule of thumb, your 6-8 quart pot should be about ¾ full for one pound of pasta to cook correctly. Your pasta needs room to breathe so it can soak in the water at a natural pace. Not enough water can cause the pasta to stick to the bottom of the pot as well as to itself. Also, as pasta cooks, it naturally lets out some starch. If there is not enough water in the pot to dilute this starch, the pasta will leave the pot with a gummy texture.
2. Bring In The Ocean Water
This may sound funny, but one of the most common sins against pasta is under seasoned water. Some people feel that their sauces will add enough flavor for the pasta, but that is like dipping fries in a smashed tomato and expecting ketchup. Your pasta water needs to be heavily salted so that the pasta can soak up some flavor of its own. Adding about a palm full of salt per pound of pasta should be sufficient. While it may feel like a lot of salt, just remember that most of the salt will be poured down the drain at the end of the cooking.
3. Wrong Cooking Times
This is by far the most abused pasta mistake. Just because a time is stated on the box of pasta does not mean your pasta will be perfectly al dente in those 8-10 minutes. This time is merely a suggestion. As every stovetop has a different heat index and every pot may differ in cooking times, make sure to watch over your pasta closely. If you are taking the pasta out, putting it into the sauce, and then immediately serving, you should take your pasta out while the middle still has the slightest of crunch. The residual heat will help take the middle of the pasta from slightly undercooked to the professional al dente texture you want. However, if your pasta is going into the oven to bake for more than 10 minutes, it is important to take your pasta off even earlier. While in the oven, your pasta continues to cook, and therefore not taking your pasta out of the water early enough will leave you with mushy, baked pasta.
4. Choosing the Right Shape
Many people may not know this, but pastas have specific shapes for a reason. Sauces are not all created equal, and therefore neither are the pasta shapes. Long, thin pasta, like spaghetti or linguine are good for lighter, usually oil or wine-based sauces. Heavier sauces could overpower the lightness of the pasta. Thicker pastas, like fettucini are great for heavier sauces, like cream or alfredo sauces, as there is more surface area for the sauce to grasp onto. Smaller, shaped pastas, like rigatoni, penne, or even macaroni and shells are the perfect vessel for heavy sauces. Sauces like a meat sauce or cheese based sauce are perfect. The small shape of the pasta with the nook and crannies help to better hold the sauce.
All in all, pasta can be a very easy dish to make, but can also easily be messed up. By following these 4 kitchen hacks, you are on your way to making restaurant quality dishes to wow all of your friends.
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