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Cooking The Perfect Pasta

homemade ravioli

Photo Public Domain via pixabay.com

O.K. Last post I promised to finish the recipe. And then I took the week off — my back spasmed and I really needed to avoid the computer for a few days. Any, here is the rest of the recipe, along with some tips on cooking pasta. See! I’m giving you two posts in one!

Homemade Pasta, Part II
Using your hands, flatten the first ball of dough in your palm. You want the finished thickness to be roughly half an inch. If you are using a slot machine, you want to be sure that the width is the same size or smaller than the width of the pasta machine slot. When feeding the pasta machine, make sure you keep hold of your pasta, but avoid pulling it as it goes through the machine. You usually want the setting of the machine to be at a one.

Now that you have gone through the first process, feed the pasta through the machine a second time, but on the next smaller setting. Keep this process going until you have fed the pasta through the machine right through to its last setting.

Through the process of rolling your dough, the pasta sheet will continue to grow, be careful so that you do not tear the pasta as you are rolling. The finished product, after rolling, will result in pasta dough that is roughly one sixteenth of an inch in thickness.

Now for the really fun part — making the actual noodles. It is highly likely that your pasta machine has some sort of cutting adapter. Place the adapter on the machine and start feeding your dough into your blades. It is generally a good idea to make sure you have one hand near the center to catch the dough as it is cut. Of course, if you are not using a machine, you can always use a pizza cutter or kitchen knife to do the job.

Once the noodles are made, you need to immediately place all the cut dough on some sort of rack or dowel for drying. If this is not feasible, use a towel and lay the pasta flat on the towel. After drying, your pasta is ready to go.

How to Cook Pasta
Even though relatively easy to cook, many people still have a hard time cooking pasta to perfection. In some cases, the pasta may be overdone. In others, it is not done enough. Either way can make it unpleasant to eat. Here are some recommendations for cooking your pasta to perfection each and every time, no matter what type of noodles you are using, be it macaroni, egg noodles, spaghetti noodles … you name it.

The best way to measure your water is by the noodle pound. Basically, for every pound of pasta you are cooking, you want to have at least four to six quarts of boiling water. For example, if you are cooking two pounds of pasta, you want eight to twelve quarts of boiled water.

Do not add the pasta before the water has come to a rolling boil. Many people think that this saves time. The reality is it does not save you any time and can lead to sticky, gooey noodles. Trust me, I’ve done this! Therefore, make sure you wait until the water has come to a complete boil before you add your noodles. When adding the noodles be sure you do so while stirring, then allow the water to return to its boiling state.

It is necessary to occasionally stir the noodles while you are cooking them, this keeps them from sticking to the bottom of the pan or to each other. Whatever type of noodle you are using, it is likely that you took them out of a package. Each manufacturer provides you with specific directions on cooking their pasta, it is important to follow these directions as specified for the amount of time the noodles should be cooked.

If you are precooking noodles that are going to be included in a recipe that needs more baking or cooking, you should make sure to reduce the traditional cooking time by at least a third, so that the pasta does not become overcooked during the second process.

How can you tell if the noodles are done? One way is to throw it at a wall and see if it sticks. But that’s a bit messy, so I don’t recommend it. A better way is to take one of the noodles and bite it. You want the noodle to be cooked through, but firm when you bite into it.

Another important tip about noodles is to be sure that you do not allow the noodles to sit in the water after being cooked. They need to be immediately drained and the recipe followed from there. Many people believe that you need to rinse your noodles after cooking and draining, however, this is only true if you intend to make a cold dish or if you are not immediately serving the noodles.

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I hope you enjoyed Noodle Month!



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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.