Friday, October 1, 2010
My pasta plan -- so how about the pasta?
This method has the obvious advantages of being intuitive and effective, especially with the special pasta pot.
But a couple of years ago I read an article that changed my cooking life. It suggested that you could cook the pasta right in the same pot as your sauce. Well, duh. Works for rice, why not pasta? Why didn't I think of that? I tried it once and was hooked.
Let me count the reasons. First, it takes less time -- no gallons of water to boil first. Second, it doesn't heat up the kitchen as much as those boiling gallons. Third, fewer pots to wash. But best of all, the flavor of the sauce infuses the pasta, so every given mouthful tastes great; you don't have your nice sauce sitting on top of a pile of bland starch.
Here's how to do it. Use a big Dutch oven pan so there's plenty of room for as many dishes of pasta as you need to make. Start your sauce and put in all the flavor and liquid ingredients. Now do some mental arithmetic, decide how long your solid ingredients need to cook and stage them up on order of cooking time. The pasta will take ten to fifteen minutes. If the solids can cook longer than that, put them in now; if you have any last-minute ingredients, hold them back till the pasta is almost cooked.
I measure pasta by weight -- five ounces works nicely for two of us, a little less with a lot of side items on the menu. I think cut pasta shapes like penne and rotini work better than long noodles. Spaghetti or fettucini are OK if you stir frequently and if your sauce is mostly liquid. At all costs avoid delicate pasta like angel hair, especially in a dense sauce. It will just clump together and make an unappetizing glob. (Thank you, my dear friends who ate it anyway -- you know who you are.)
The picture at the top is whole wheat penne cooked in red wine with the last of the zucchetta added about three minutes before serving, some leftover chickcn and fresh parsley on top. We grated parmesan cheese on right after the photo was made. One pot, about twenty minutes start to finish.