Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Sticky Pasta

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Friends should stick together. Family should stick together. Pasta, on the other hand, should never stick together.
Why do we sometimes get lumps of pasta when other times the noodles slip apart with ease? The answer is not what you might think.

Contrary to popular belief, adding oil to the water is not the solution. Sometimes, we all need a little space. The size of the pot, and the amount of water is the secret to cooking pasta well.

Pasta releases starch when it hits the water, and can absorb nearly double its dry weight in water as it cooks. Not using a big enough pot crowds the noodles, causing them to stick together during cooking. Less water means more starch in the water, and ultimately, gluey pasta.

The solution? Use 5 quarts of water for every pound of pasta. Add a little salt, and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and give it a stir. Continue cooking at a full boil until the pasta is al dente, or cooked, yet firm to the bite. Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse it.

The ultimate finish is to add the pasta to the sauce for the last minute or so of cooking. This allows it to absorb the sauce, get perfectly coated, and hit the table piping hot.

And why not add oil to the cooking water to keep the noodles slippery and separated? They will become a little too slippery and the sauce will not adhere to the pasta properly. Even if you are serving the pasta with oil, add it at the end. It really does make a difference.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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