Pasta Cooking Tips
One of the great things about My Nonni’s Meat Sauce is that it goes so well with simple, longand pasta – so flavorful and so quick to prepare. Following are Lynne’s tips on making the perfect batch:
- Always cook pasta in a big-enough pot; one that is tall and deep rather than wide and shallow is best for long strands.
- Use a generous amount of water; the pasta should be able to swim freely in the pot.
- Salt the water with a good handful of kosher or sea salt; this is really your only chance to season the pasta itself (and not just the sauce), and salt brings out the flavor of any pasta (NOTE: My Nonni’s raviolis do not need to have salt added to the water, the raviolis have been slightly cooked, then flash frozen, so the salt has already been added).
- Never rinse cooked pasta; the starch on the surface contributes flavor and helps the sauce adhere. The only exception to this rule is pasta for cold salads, which will be too sticky and gummy when the noodles cool unless some of the surface starch is rinsed off.
- Always reserve a quarter cup or so of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce. This both loosens the sauce so it can coat the pasta and contributes starch that helps it cling better.
- Don’t add olive oil to the pasta cooking water. It is an old wives’ tale that this will keep it from sticking as it cooks; pasta clumps together when it is not cooked in sufficient water. Save your olive oil for salad dressing.
- Don’t coat drained pasta with olive oil to keep it from sticking; this will prevent the sauce from clinging to the pasta, causing it to end up in a pool at the bottom of your serving dish.
- Cook the pasta just to al dente and no longer; start testing it a minute or two before the time indicated on the package to make sure it doesn’t overcook. The pasta should still offer definite resistance when you bite it but not be pasty white or hard inside.
- Remember that your pasta will continue to cook when you add it to the hot sauce and toss them together, so don’t leave it in the pan any longer than necessary to marry the sauce and pasta together and warm them both through.
- Lastly, keep portion sizes reasonable. A cup of cooked pasta is plenty for a first course or appetizer serving. For My Nonni’s raviolis, three to four raviolis are fine for a side course and around eight for a main course with salad. I have seen boys and men eat a whole bag of 16-18 by themselves!