How boring is it that I learned the secret to making perfect pasta in Italy? Yes, fresh made pasta is amazing, and no, that's not the technique I'm about to share with you. (Now that you know I'm not going to talk about fresh made pasta, are you a) disappointed, b) disgusted, or c) totally excited, because pasta should be easy?) My friend's Italian husband Peldi taught me the five steps to a perfect bowl of pasta:
5 Steps to the Perfect Bowl of Pasta
- Use the biggest pot you have.
- Set the stove on the highest heat you need to keep a rolling boil.
- Don't be shy about adding plenty of salt to the water. (He noted that Americans are afraid of salt. This is true and I actually add less than he did, but more than I used to.)
- Buy DeCecco brand pasta, available at almost any grocery store in Italy as well as my favorite local Piggly Wiggly.
- Boil the pasta exactly as long as it tells you to on the box. DeCecco doesn't lie.
The cooking time is essential for perfect al dente pasta. In fact, when I have been unable to obtain DeCecco brand pasta, I look up their cooking times on the internet, based on the shape of the pasta, and apply them to whatever brand I am using.
We Americans do have a tendency to overcook pasta. Even some of the best restaurants make that mistake, possibly to meet customer demand. Mushy pasta makes me sad and I'm thrilled that Peldi showed me the way. Now we can enjoy our favorite pasta meals, any night of the week, with no stress. A few of our kid-friendly favorites:
- Linguine alle vongole e cozze. The kids don't like the mussels and clams? Pick them out and I'll eat them.
- Farfalle with pesto and green peas. Our youngest discovered this dish in a deli and it's his favorite, which may or may not be related to the bow tie shape of the pasta.
- Pasta with chick peas or navy beans, chopped tomatoes, herbs, olive oil and Parmesan.
- Puttanesca. My cheat recipe: Add olives, capers, anchovies (or anchovy paste) and extra olive oil to jarred marinara.
- Linguine with truffles, wild mushrooms and Parmesan. Yes, this can get a little pricey for a family meal, but it's decadent and delicious.
What are your favorite easy pasta dishes? Have you ever been surprised to learn that a favorite food was easier to prepare than you thought? (I was. I thought for sure I would need a pasta roller to recreate my Italian favorites!)
(Images: Anne Postic)