November 17, 2010

Pasta: Strain No More!

Source: Bon Appetit
For years I boiled pasta, lugged it over to the sink, heaved it into the strainer (usually losing noodles down the sink in the process), and then slopped it into a waiting bowl. Sauce, naturally, was added last.

It resulted in a lot of stickiness and lackluster flavor.

There is a better way.

Toss the strainer!

Did you know that pasta in most restaurants doesn't get strained? In fact, their pots of pasta water are used over and over again throughout the night! 

They simply take tongs, or for short pasta, a scoop colander like this one, and transfer the pasta directly into the pan of sauce, allowing some healthy splashes of water to make their way in as well.

Aside from being a convenience issue -- straining, refilling, and bringing to boil pot after pot of water would be unrealistic -- it actually makes the sauces better. When pasta is boiled, its starch is released into the water. When some of that starchy water makes its way into the sauce, it helps distribute the sauce more evenly while helping it "grip" to the noodles.

I read awhile back that in Mario Batali's restaurants, the pasta is transferred just shy of al dente and allowed to finish cooking in its sauce so that the delicious flavors can infuse into the noodle. I've been doing it this way ever since. It really makes for a more "put together" dish with lovely texture and depth of flavor. 

(Not to mention that it's so much easier not to have to do all that hauling and lugging with a scorching hot pail of water!)

It what works for us --

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