HOW TO COOK CHARLIE’S TABLE PASTA
• A large pot
• A colander or other strainer • Fresh drinkable water
• A source of heat to bring the water to a boil
• Salt or other seasoning
• A wooden stirrer that can reach to the bottom of the pot without burning your hand
The Pot: It doesn’t matter what type of pot you use, so long it is large enough to let the pasta move around freely. If there is not enough water, the pasta is likely to get mushy or sticky.
• Use 1 quart (4 cups) of fresh cold water per 4 ounces of pasta. If you use too small a quantity of water, the dissolving starch would be re-absorbed by the pasta.
• If the water is from a tap that hasn’t been used in a while, consider running the water a bit before using to eliminate any pollutants from a pipe.
Add salt (and possibly other seasoning):
• Why salt? Salt is added to the water strictly for flavor. Pasta absorbs salt as it cooks. Adding salt can make water boil faster, but only if you add too much for most people’s taste buds.
• What salt? While any commercial salt is usable, some top chefs are known to prefer coarse sea salt. Consider testing various salts over time to find the one that works best for your taste.
• How much salt to add: At smaller concentrations, salt makes food taste more like itself. It also helps with digestion. While the standard is to add 1 teaspoon of salt to 3 quarts of water, the amount to use depends on your individual taste. Too much salt will make food taste like salt to the point of being unpleasant to eat.
• When to add salt: Add salt after the water comes to a boil before you insert our fresh pasta. Salting the water sooner will cause the water to take longer to come to a boil.
• Other seasoning: Once you are comfortable with the basics, consider experimenting to complement a particular sauce you use by adding seasoning other than, or in addition to, salt. (If you come up with ideas that work, please share them by emailing to email@example.com)
Boil the water before inserting the pasta: It is best to wait until the water is boiling with big bubbles before inserting fresh pasta. Boiling is critical to the pasta’s texture. It helps prevent pasta from becoming mushy.
Inserting the pasta:
• If the pasta is frozen, prevent sticking by allowing it to thaw before using.
• If you are cooking longer strands, separate the strands by hand before putting them into the boiling water.
Stir, preferably with a wooden spoon:
• While it is easy to place your pasta into boiling water and forget it while doing other preparations, it is critical to stir the pasta to be sure it doesn’t stick together and cook unevenly.
• A wooden spoon is preferable because it helps prevent bubbles from flowing over the top of the pot onto your stove top and counter if you rest it on top of the pot as your pasta cooks.
A lid on the pot:
• Putting a lid on your pot while bringing the water to a boil will make it boil faster.
• If you cover the pot briefly once the pasta has been added, it will bring the water back to a boiling point as quickly as possible. Then remove the lid.
• Leave the lid off once pasta is placed in the water to make it easier to stir to prevent sticking as well as to gauge cook time.
Cook time before removing pasta from the water:
• The objective is to cook pasta until it is “al dente” – slightly firm to your taste.
• All Charlie’s Table pastas cook in three (3) minutes or less. After two (2) minutes, consider tasting the pasta at 15-20 second intervals to check when the pasta is slightly too firm to your taste. The pasta will continue to cook in the precious moments between being drained and placed on your plate.
• Letting cooked pasta sit in the water too long will result in the pasta getting mushy and possibly sticking together.
• If you will eat the pasta with an accompanying sauce, consider taking the pasta out of the boiling water a minute or more before done and adding it to a proportionate amount of your sauce to let it finish cooking until al dente.
Removing pasta from the water/Draining pasta:
• Unless you are using a pasta pot with a built-in strainer, have a large colander or strainer in the sink into which you can drain the pasta.
• To remove Long pasta such as spaghetti: it is best to use tongs or a pasta fork to transfer the pasta from the water to the sauce.
• To remove Short pasta such as garganelli or rigatoni: any utensil that will lift the pasta out of the water is acceptable.
• Never rinse the pasta, whether with cold or hot water, as this will wash away too much of the starch coating.
• Have your sauce ready before the pasta is cooked.
• A central philosophy of Italian pasta cooking is matching the right pasta to the right sauce. In general, the smoother the pasta, the thinner the sauce. The more convoluted the pasta shape, or the rougher the outside of the pasta, the thicker the sauce.
• Water in which pasta has been cooked is a great addition to sauces. Consider adding a few tablespoons to your sauce before adding the pasta. Salty, starchy water adds flavor, helps glue the pasta and sauce together, and can help thicken the sauce.
• Once the pasta is cooked, mix the pasta into the sauce speedily or pasta pieces will stick together.
• Keep in mind that pasta should not be swimming in sauce. The less sauce you use, the more pasta you get to taste.
Pasta at the table:
• Serve pasta hot.
• How to eat elongated pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini is up to your personal preference.
• Some people prefer to eat with a fork and a spoon, lifting a few strings of pasta at a time and twirling them against the spoon.
• Or you can eat pasta solely with a fork, also lifting a few strings of pasta at a time. The edge of the plate or bowl can provide an easy place against which noodles can be twirled on a fork as if using a screwdriver.
• Olive oil: There is a misconception that olive oil can prevent pasta from sticking together. Instead, what it does is prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta. This counteracts one of the beauties of Charlie’s Table pasta which is the bronze die texture which helps sauce adhere to the pasta. On the other hand, if you are not using a sauce, olive oil by itself has little effect.
• Rinsing cooked pasta: Do not rinse cooked pasta under water. Rinsing with water takes away the starch on the pasta surface. The starch contributes flavor and, like the texture, helps the sauce adhere.
Additional questions or tips? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org