Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pasta: Olive Garden Can Kiss My Ass

Alright people. Enough crimes have been committed in the name of pasta and it's time we ended this blood bath. I want you to repeat after me:
  • Pasta is my friend.
  • Pasta is my friend.
  • Pasta should NEVER be cooked for more than EIGHT MINUTES!
If you like pasta that is so mushy it's almost back to its basic form, then you are a bad person and should just open a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee, you heathen. You will RESPECT the pasta! And thus follows my commandments:
  1. Thou shall not over cook the pasta until it can be sucked through a straw.
  2. Thou shall not snap the spaghetti/linguine/angel hair in half. This makes you a moron and Italians will LAUGH AT YOU.
  3. Thou shall not put Velveeta on any pasta. It's not sacrilegious, it just has no flavor and thus no point it adding it.
  4. Thou shall not oil thy boiling water unless you want your sauce to slide right off the spaghetti.
  5. And the most important: Thou shall NOT CALL IT NOODLES! That's Chinese food you arrogant twit and if you want Chinese, than make dumplings or lo mien but when you're in MY damn kitchen you'll call it PASTA and LIKE it!
Now on to the instructions.

Step 1: Choose your pasta.
Very important! If you use dry pasta or fresh pasta there is a big difference in timing. Fresh pasta, which you can identify as not being in a box on the supermarket shelf, but lovingly shaped, surrounded by semolina and handed to you in a white box by a little old lady, needs only 3 - 5 minutes to be done, sometimes less. Dry pasta takes no more than 8 minutes from a rolling boil. Why only 8 minutes when the box says 10? Because after you dump it into a colander into the sink, it doesn't magically become room temperature. It needs to cool down and while it's venting heat it's still cooking, albeit much more slowly. This part of the tour we'll deal with dry pasta since that's what most people handle.

Step 2: Choose your shape.
8 minutes is the default for anything that looks like spaghetti. Pastas have fancy names and shapes but guess what, regardless of what my husband thinks, it all tastes the same. However, the textures are different and what may work well with a fettuccine sauce, may not mesh too well with a primavera setting. Rigatoni, Ziti, and any other tube shaped pasta may take more or less time than 8 minutes. Ravioli and those little pastas like Farfalle (bow ties) or the elbows, take less time because they are smaller. Figure out what you want and lets go.

Step 3: The Rolling Boil
See aren't you glad I taught you how to boil water first? It makes things so much easier. If you skipped that part of the lesson then go back and read it instead of faffing about. I don't repeat myself, not even for my loved ones, and I'm not starting now. After you get your water to a rolling boil add your pasta, without breaking it, and give it a bit of a stir. You'll see it soften up pretty quickly. If the water gets to frothy and starts to threaten to boil over, turn the heat down a bit but make sure you have enough of a hard boil to get the job done.
And for the love of god, time the pasta. You don't want to go to all this trouble to get cat food.

Step 4: No Drain, No Pain?
Ok, that was bad. Don't worry I got a sound thrashing from hubby and brother dear for that one. I hope common sense told you that you should really have a colander (bowl with holes in it) to drain this bad boy into. No? Well you know now. If you don't have one then slowly pour out the water into the sink. Try not to tip the pasta into the sink, unless you just cleaned it (WITH BLEACH!) and don't mind it being in there. Did I mention the sink should be clean AND empty? .....
Moving on.

Step 5: Top Me Off – The Sauce and You
Wine goes in a glass next to the plate of pasta (optional). On the pasta you can pretty much put anything. I'll have a session on tomato sauce later and link it back here. Sometimes when I'm lazy or just damn tired I'll grab a jar of sauce and pop it open. It's good enough and if you experiment with different kinds of jarred sauces you'll find a set that works for you.

This is a tale of woe and 'oh for the love of god', because I don't want anyone to go through what I did. I got a jar of fettuccine sauce. The top popped when I opened it so I thought nothing of it, but when it was heated it didn't look right. Very clumpy. Thinking nothing of it, I ate it....the whole jar. For three days I was puking up my guts and wishing I had been strangled by my own umbilical chord. READ DATES OF JARRED ANYTHING! Unless it's cured in salt or blessed by a rabbi (this it not me being cute – I'm serious) check the dates and throw it out if it has lingered too long, open or closed. Having your guts turn inside out and do the hokey-pokey is not worth the 3 bucks you wasted on chucking the toxic swill.


Codexer of Yum said...

I resemble that remark about different pastas...

As a serious aside, pastas *do* have variables in flavor; some higher-end pastas (stuff you can't get at 7-11) are cut by antique machines that provide a better texture to the pastas (this also helps the pasta to hold sauce more efficiently), but it's not a critical difference in quality.

allegra said...

I love you.

Corwin Bl├║dravn said...

I just found your blog and I love it...I've worked in professional kitchens my whole adult life and I can say you speak to the heart of cooks everywhere...thank you for the recipes and the sass.