So, one evening I’m preparing a luscious Italian meal and he walks in on me just as I’m seasoning the pasta water. Hubby doesn’t cook with salt and he almost had a conniption when he saw what I was doing. An animated debate immediately ensued as to whether or not pasta water should be salted.
I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong but when I know I’m right I’m not about to back down. On this particular point I was absolutely sure I was right. So, we contacted a chef friend of ours and he settled the argument in short order . . . needless to say, I won that particular debate. That’s because I know how to cook!
The reason salt should be added to the water before you cook your pasta is because if you don’t you will end up with bland, tasteless pasta. Every element of a dish should be seasoned in order to bring together a well balanced meal. Salted water flavors the pasta. A generous amount of salt in the water seasons the pasta internally as it absorbs liquid and swells it also ensures that the pasta is cooked evenly throughout. Figure 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Very little of the salt stays with the pasta when it is served.
Another secret to perfectly cooked pasta is use a big pot with lots of water. When the pasta is put into the rapidly boiling water it begins to release starch. If the pasta doesn't have the room to move around the starches will not get the opportunity to dissipate in the water and the pasta will stick together.
You also want to make sure that you stir the pasta for the first minute or two after you add it to the water. This helps to keep the pasta moving as well as to dilute the starch. This keeps the pasta from sticking together.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not want to add oil to the water to keep the pasta from sticking. Not that it won't keep the pasta from sticking to each other but it will also coat the noodles in oil. This will prevent the sauce from absorbing into your pasta.
My boy says that if you toss a noodle against the wall and it sticks then it’s done. I can tell you that pasta flinging is not an accurate way to test for doneness. Uncooked starchy pasta will stick as well as mooshy overdone pasta.
The best way to test that your pasta is done is to use your teeth. First boil the pasta according to the package's instructions . . . but note that this is the minimum cooking time. Don’t rely on the time to tell you when your pasta is done. About a minute before the time goes off, test it. If the pasta is mildly chewy but doesn't stick in your teeth, it is done. If the pasta seems a little hard or sticks to your teeth, cook it 1 minute longer and test it again. Keep in mind that if you’re using pasta in another recipe . . . like macaroni and cheese or baked ziti . . . the pasta should be a little underdone because it will continue to cook in the oven.
Buttery Egg Egg Noodles
To the pan melt one stick of butter. Add a couple tablespoons of crushed garlic and fresh ground pepper. Cook for about two minutes until the garlic is translucent but not browned.
Return the noodles to the pan and toss to coat. Add three whole eggs and a 1/2 a cup of Parmesan cheese and stir. The heat of the noodles will cook the eggs.
Serve and enjoy.