Make perfectly cooked pasta

August 24, 2011 

  • Garlic Linguine

    1/2 pound dry linguine

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    2 tablespoons garlic, minced

    1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes

    3 tablespoons Parmesan, shredded

    Salt to taste

    Cook linguine according to package directions in a large pot of boiling salted water; drain.

    Heat oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a saucepan over medium-high while pasta cooks. Cook about 1 minute, then toss linguine with garlic oil, Parmesan and salt.

    Egg Noodles with Carrots, Snow Peas and Lamb

    8 ounces fine egg noodles

    2 teaspoons honey

    2 tablespoons lime juice

    1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

    2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

    1/2 pound lean boneless lamb, cut into strips about 1-inch long and 1/4-inch wide

    1 garlic clove, finely chopped

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    4 scallions, trimmed, thinly sliced with the white and green parts separate

    1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

    1 large carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally into very thin crescents

    1/4 pound snow peas, stems and strings removed, each pod sliced diagonally into thirds.

    In a small dish, combine the honey, lime juice and curry powder; set the mixture aside. Add the noodles to 3 quarts of boiling water with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Start testing the noodles after 5 minutes and cook them until they are done. Drain the noodles; transfer them to a large bowl, and toss them with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

    Pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the lamb and cook it, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, the white part of the scallions and the honey mixture. Cook for 30 seconds more, stirring constantly. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the noodles and toss well. Do not wash the skillet.

    Return the skillet to the stove over medium high heat, pour in the stock, then add the carrot and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook the mixture, scraping up any caramelized bits for about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook for 1 minute more, stirring all the while. Transfer the mixture to the bowl containing the noodles, add the scallion greens and mix thoroughly.

    This dish maybe served warm or cold.

Let's take a look at pasta. It is a complex carbohydrate that provides as much energy as pure protein. It's easy to digest and provides a long-lasting feeling of satisfaction. And it has few calories.

In buying dried pasta, examine the label to be certain that the pasta has been produced with semolina. Pasta made with all or part farina, the coarsely ground endosperm of any wheat except durum, should be avoided because it will turn pasty during boiling. When cooked, good pasta can swell to nearly three times its size and it has a slightly nutty, sweet flavor.

For cooking pasta, two rules apply: Use a lot of boiling water and be sure not to overcook it. While almost all cooked pasta recipes call for salting the water, the quantity is left up to the cook. Bear in mind that salt is highly diluted when adequate water is used and a relatively small amount of salt is absorbed by the pasta. Leave it out entirely and the pasta will be insipid unless coupled with an intensely flavored sauce. Adding lemon juice in the water makes a fairly good substitute for salt.

Pasta is easy to cook, yet too often it emerges soggy and sticky. You only need to take a few steps to ensure perfectly cooked pasta every time:

  • Use a big pot and lots of water. As the often-repeated expression has it, pasta loves to swim.

  • Let the water come to a full boil, then add the salt.

  • With the water at a full boil, drop in the pasta, a few handfuls at a time. Stir it to keep it from sticking.

  • Cover the pot so the water can come back to boil quickly. Then uncover the pot to prevent boil over, adjusting the heat to maintain a rolling boil.

  • Begin timing the pasta once the water has resumed boiling. Test to see how done it is by biting into a piece of the pasta. When the pasta is just right for the tooth -- that is deliciously chewy with a floury taste -- it is ready.

  • Drain the pasta at once. Do not rinse it unless the recipe says so. Rinsing washes away nutrients.

  • Mix the pasta at once to keep it from adhering to itself. Toss it well to distribute the ingredients.

  • Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at

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