How to Boil Pasta

Cooking spaghetti. Photo by Eloquence.

See how the oil sits on top? Do not put oil in pasta water, it just goes down the drain. Oil pasta after cooking.

Dear Tyler,

Here is another assumption I made. Since your father is Italian, and you grew up eating pasta, I assumed you knew how to cook it.

Boiling pasta is really quite simple.

You need to use a pot big enough to hold enough water to cook the amount of pasta you need. Err on too much water rather than not enough water.

English: Boling water in colour

Bring the water to a boil. A boil is when the bubbles actively break the surface. A boil measures 212°F (100°C) on a thermometer. A lid on the pot will help water boil faster. If you live in a high altitude (like the mountain house) water won’t boil without a lid, and the boiling point decreases 1° every 500 feet in elevation (or 1° C every 285 meters). it has everything to do with atmospheric pressure. Actually, boiling point is quite a science subject.

Always salt the water AFTER it reaches an active boil. In the science community, adding a solute to the water creates a solution that raises the temperature of the boiling point. Scientists will argue that it is not necessary to add salt because the amount of increased temperature isn’t worth it to ‘cook faster’. This is not why we add salt.

We add salt for flavor.

We add salt after a boil is reached so the salt does not pit our pots over a lifetime of poor cooking habits.

Most of all, we add salt to things we boil for flavor. Boiled potatoes are ever so bland when salt is left out. The amount required isn’t much, just enough to lightly flavor the water.

Be aware, when you add salt to boiling water, the water will flare up momentarily. Be ready for it to avoid getting burned.

Choose your favorite pasta and read the package it comes in. Look for cooking directions for the time it takes to cook the pasta to “Al-dente“. Each pasta will have different cooking times.

Place the pasta in the pot, stir it up so it does not stick together. If using a long pasta, don’t break it so it fits in the pot! Short strands are hard to twirl onto the fork.

Lean the noodles up against the side of the pot and using tongs, as the pasta under the water softens, fold the rest of the pasta under the water. Be sure to stir it all around so nothing gets stuck either to other pasta strands or the bottom or sides of the pot.

This is especially true of fettuccine or linguine and other flat pasta.

Comparison between different types of long Ita...

Comparison between different types of long Italian pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Set a timer fort the required time.

If cooking fresh pasta, the time will be very short, dried pasta takes longer.

Drain the pasta in a colander and try to save about a cup of the pasta water.

Boiling pasta

Boiling pasta. Fold the ends under the water as the pasta softens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you notice there was never a mention to put oil in the water while boiling?

Ha! That is because the oil sits on the top of the water while the pasta is below the water. It does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Stirring the pasta after you first put it in the water does.

After draining, put the pasta into a serving bowl and drizzle with a great olive oil.

Serve as you like.

If you are going to use the pasta in a salad or need it cold, rinse the pasta in cold water after draining to stop the cooking process. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

If the pasta gets dry or you need more moisture in your sauce, add a small bit of the pasta water. This is why you do not want to over salt the water. Only salt it enough to make it taste good.

If you want to re-heat pasta that has been refrigerated, simple bring water to a boil and dip the pasta in for a minute or so, just to warm it, not cook it. This can be done in a small amount of water.

Drain and serve as desired.

This works for all kinds of pasta, semolina, whole wheat, rice, artichoke, quinoa etc. Read the package for length of cooking time.

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pasta is a great budget stretcher so learn to cook it correctly.

The basic technique:

Boil the water – use lots of water!

Salt after water boils

Stir the pasta after adding to boiling water to prevent sticking

Drain

Drizzle with olive oil and serve

OR

Drain, rinse  in cold water to cool and drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

Love, Mom

Pasta again!

Pasta again! (Photo credit: HatM)

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How to Boil an Egg and what to make with them

How to boil an egg is a basic procedure that needs to have a couple of “rules” to follow in order to turn out right.

There are a few suggestions on what to do with your hard-boiled eggs after you master the technique at the end of this post.

So often the yolks have a dark green sulfur ring around them and the whites are rubbery rather than tender. This happens from the eggs being overcooked or being old after they are cooked. The reason they start to stink when they age is due to the sulfur content which is also what makes the green ring around the yolk form, a simple chemical reaction.

You can avoid this and have beautiful boiled eggs by following this method and eating them soon after.

The rules are simple:

  • Start with cold water.
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add salt (only after the water boils)
  • Boil for 10 minutes

    Set timer for 10 minutes

  • Cool quickly in cold water

Cool by running cold water over the cooked eggs until they cool

Cool under cold water

down. You will need to change the water as it warms up from the hot eggs. Keep the water cool and in about 15 minutes you will have perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs.

A perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg is yellow throughout the yolk

Perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs

and the whites are tender.

Using this method, they

Gently tap to crack the shell all over

should be easy to peel. Gently tap the shell on the counter until it cracks. Gently roll the egg so the shell gets cracked all over; then peel the shell off.

Starting with cold water and adding salt after the boil all contribute to successful peeling.

A lot of Europeans will leave their eggs out on the counter, in the US we keep them in the refrigerator. Either way, it is best to start with cold water. Place the eggs in the pot, fill with cold water to cover the eggs by at least an inch or more. This helps keep the eggs from cracking due to temperature change.

Use a pot that can comfortably hold all the eggs you are boiling neatly on the bottom of the pot. There should be enough room for them to roll a little, but not too much. (See the photo of the eggs in the pot earlier in this post) Some people put a small towel in the bottom to cushion the eggs. This is totally unnecessary, but you can do it if you like.

Add salt after the water comes to a boil. This saves the bottom of your cookware from getting pitted from years of salting cold water. Save your cookware, salt only after water boils.

Some people will save the egg cooking water for plants, I don’t due to the salt.

Carefully peel, rinse and dry

The eggs will absorb some of the salt while boiling.

Here is a traditional Southern dish named “Deviled Eggs“. I have always been around Deviled Eggs so I am not sure how well-known they are in other parts of the world.

Here in the South, we have dishes known as “egg plates” made specifically for holding Deviled Eggs. I used to have several in different styles but alas, I no longer own an egg plate. Not even an egg plate shaped like a holiday wreath, not a glass one nor a china one. Where did they go? It’s not like I swore off ever making deviled eggs again. Puzzling how things come and go. Maybe one day I decided I would rather have the space than the egg plates. I don’t recall making that decision.

Be careful when adding the pickle relish. Don’t add too much liquid or else  your egg filling will be runny. If that happens add some cheese or bread crumbs or go commercial and add xanthan gum to thicken it back up. You could always boil some more eggs too.

Here is the recipe:

Deviled Eggs

  • 6 eggs, hard-boiled, split in half.
  • 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Sweet Pickle Relish
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Capers
  • Chives or scallion for garnish

Remove the yolks from the whites, place the yolks in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash

Tray of Deviled Eggs garnished with scallion green, caper and chive flower

together with a fork until smooth.

Adjust the quantities of the ingredients to match the yolks and your personal taste.

Perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs
Remove yolks to make filling for Deviled Eggs

Spoon the yolk mixture back in to the whites. Top each with a bias cut chive or scallion green.

Deviled Eggs

Sprinkle lightly with sweet paprika and finely ground black pepper.

What else can you do with hard-boiled eggs?

Add them to tuna salad, make egg salad for sandwiches, slice and serve with spinach salad, make Pad Thai and sprinkle chopped hard boiled eggs, peanuts and cilantro over the noodles.

Personally, I can eat them sprinkled with a touch of Fleur de sel.

Spinach Salad

Main thing to remember, start with cold water and boil only for 10 minutes.

Cooking Note: A “BOIL” is 212°F or when the bubbles roll rapidly and break the surface of the water.

Use hard-boiled eggs in Salad Nicoise