The pasta cooking secrets you’ve always dreamed of, from Andrea the Italian pasta chef

Andrea Rigodanza wants to help you cook better pasta.

As an Italian pasta chef, he knows what he’s talking about.

To start, he’s going to walk us through the basics, like looking at the quality of the pasta and identifying the higher quality batches versus the lower quality batches.

How to identify the best pasta?

Andrea says color is the first thing to look for when selecting the perfect pasta.

“The colour [of] good quality pasta is very light. The lower quality one is golden in color,” he explains.

“This is due to the fact [higher quality] these dry very slowly, usually in 15 to 20 hours.”

Lower quality pasta, on the other hand, is dried very quickly in a high temperature oven, which can burn off the starch it contains in the process.

“This [higher quality] one is better because when you go to cook it, it’s going to release less starch,” he adds.

Lower quality pasta (left) is brighter yellow than higher quality.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

The second thing Andrea recommends is to look at the surface of the pasta.

“A good quality is very coarse because it comes out of a bronze matrix,” he explains.

“Lower grade is usually very smooth because it comes out of a plastic die where there’s less friction, so they can do larger batches.”

While it’s not “the end of the world,” Andrea says it means your sauce won’t stick to your pasta as much as it would be ideal.

The last thing he suggests looking for is the amount of protein listed on the package. The more, the better.

“Proteins help [pasta] keep the shape, so as not to break it during cooking, and it will keep the al dente texture longer.”

And as we all know, it’s al dente.

How much water do you need to cook pasta?

“If you’re like my girlfriend, you’ll say that a liter is enough for a whole package”, laughs Andrea.

“But it’s not like that. Usually it’s a liter of water for 100 grams of pasta.”

This means that a whole packet of pasta should ideally be cooked with five liters of water. The emphasis is on the “ideally”.

“If you can’t afford to use a lot of water, it’s not the end of the world, but you have to [at least] make sure the water just covers the pasta,” Andrea suggests.

“The water will be starchy, but the pasta will still cook.

“Dry pasta absorbs 1.5 times its weight, so if you cook 100 grams of dry pasta it will end up weighing 250 grams. So you just want to make sure there is enough water for the pasta to absorb [the water it needs] to make sure it’s cooked properly.

Andrea says there are also times when you might deliberately want to use less water to cook pasta – say you’re making a seafood sauce to go with your pasta which doesn’t have a lot of cream or cheese.

In cases like this, he explains, cooking your pasta in a smaller amount of water than usual increases the amount of starch in your pan, which will make your dish a bit creamier. .

How to prevent pasta from overflowing?

Andrea says it’s another thing that comes down to starch.

“When you cook pasta, the starch [rises to form] a thin layer above the water and the pressure [caused by high cooking temperature] makes it bubble.

“Pasta overflows when there is too much starch in the water.”

So how can you avoid this? Revelation to come.

Did you know that the water you use to cook your pasta doesn’t need to reach boiling point to do the job?(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“Everyone thinks that to cook pasta you need water to boil. Yes, it’s faster and easier, but it’s actually not necessary,” says Andrea.

“[At the] top of the mountains, because of the atmospheric pressure, the water boils at 90 degrees. And in Italy in the mountains, we still eat pasta.

“You just need to make sure the pasta reaches a temperature of over 80 degrees [the boiling point of water is 100 degrees] thus gluten and starch break down and the pasta absorbs water [it needs].

“Sometimes I bring [a pot of pasta] Bring to a boil, stir, close the lid and turn off the heat. It will probably take 1-2 more minutes [when cooked this way]but the pasta will be fine anyway as the water with the lid on will stay around 80 degrees.”

How long should it be cooked?

Andrea says he cooks the pasta in water for two to three minutes less than the instructions suggest.

He then breaks a piece in half and checks to see if there is a visible white line in the rim. If there is, it’s still too raw.

Andrea recommends finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“[Once it’s ready] I add the pasta to the sauce with a little pasta water and finish cooking in the pan.

“[This method] also helps release some starch in the sauce to make it creamier and the sauce will stick to the pasta,” he concludes.

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