An argument *for* cooking pasta in more water


#1

I’m not a big fan of starchy water to begin with, so when a recipe relies on starchy pasta water, I will always use a big pot to reduce the starch concentration. Otherwise, I do want to conserve water, so I try my best to use less water like Serious Eats and others do. However, unless I am constantly stirring the whole time, I always end up with sticking pasta and the texture of the pasta is sometimes pasty, for lack of a better word. Maybe I am using cheap pasta (usually from Trader Joe’s) and compensating by over-agitating. Anyway, in this article they go a little more in depth about using a big pot as it relates to starch:

https://blog.thermoworks.com/2018/08/how-to-cook-pasta-better


#2

Maybe more water is typical, since pasta pots include collanders. Yet I prefer cooking pasta in what becomes a sauce, as starch is part of it. I cook all the spices for that matter, so less water means I have to use less spice also. I get the impression that pasta can be cooked in a double boiler, because it behaves like the flour it is, which gelatinizes at around 170°F, where it would expand and get soft, or cooked in other words. It doesn’t really need to be boiled, as it manages to cook on me before a back burner can even boil a good sized pot sometimes.


(saregama) #3

So these guys I think came up with the soaking method which was later picked up / popularized by serious eats standalone and for their baked ziti recipe.

I tried it for a huge amount of baked ziti a few years ago and it worked great. Recently, I tried it again for a simpler pasta recipe and it worked beautifully again. First time TJ pasta, second time cheapo bulk bin pasta as someone else’s place.

I like the combination of water conservation and energy conservation, and most of the excess starch washes off as residue during soaking.

A short soak is also recommended for pressure cooker “boiled” pasta, but I’ve found that the PC is largely unnecessary if you’re soaking - cooking is quick enough without.

Net net, I never boil a big pot of water anymore.


(Denise) #4

Yes! I have become a convert to the less-water method. Mostly. Now the soaking method you mention intrigues me.

I have an approach that works really well because I cook pasta for two. I use my All-Clad sauté pan to boil pasta in water, giving the pasta a quick turn or two with kitchen tongs during cooking to prevent sticking. I reserve a couple of ladlefuls of the cooking water before draining the cooked pasta in a colander.

Then I use the same sauté pan to prep or assemble my sauce like a quick marinara or maybe something like preroasted, diced winter squash and sautéed red onion. When the pasta goes back in the pan, it gets a ladleful or so of starchy cooking water to combine the pasta with sauce. A dollop of oil, butter, or other finishing dairy go as I take the pan off heat. Pasta and sauce come together in minutes and you have a one-pot meal. This is not an exact technique—trial and error to learn—but it’s been a game-changer for me.

I do still boil a big pot of water when I want to cook vegetables in the same liquid first, or have a fresh stuffed pasta such as ravioli. Delicate filled pasta benefits from the larger volume of water. And If I had a larger quantity of any kind of pasta to cook, I would also break out the big pot of water. But then again, the soaking method intrigues.

And now I want to eat.


(Dan) #5

I didnt know this was a specific thing tested out but I have been cooking small dry pasta shapes, farro and lentils the same way for soup. This way I can control how much starch winds up in the soup while the soup is assembled and simmering.


(saregama) #6

Fresh pasta is a different category - it cooks so fast. Stuffed is also different.

In your example, the soaking idea would apply as follows:

  • soak (dried) pasta before you start prepping vegetables
  • assemble sauce as usual in sauté pan
  • when sauce is ready, add soaked (drained) pasta with a splash of water and cook till your preference

The pasta finishes cooking in the time everything heats up together i.e. no need to boil first (pasta has absorbed the water it needs already, it just needs heat to cook it).


(Denise) #7

@Saregama, what an excellent walkthrough. You have given me confidence to give the pasta soaking method a whirl!


(saregama) #8

Ha - i hope it works! It might take a couple of tries to get the texture right/what you like - read the SE and food ideas links and the comments too (always helpful!)

They do flag the difference between long shapes and shorter, thicker ones.


#9

Actually, it doesn’t turn out the same with a double boiler setup. It does expand and get soft, but ends up tasting like a noodle stew that was cooked in a slow cooker. Well, now at least I know how to convert a mixing bowl into a slow cooker. The other thing is, the instructions for a pressure cooker say not to boil pasta in there, because it bubbles up and clogs the valve, but I think it could be put into a bowl of water on top of a steamer basket and cooked that way (under pressure) in less time than a slow cooker. I just don’t really need to do that at the moment (but had to ponder such possibilities while waiting for the pasta to cook). So far I think pasta cooks fastest for me in a wok shape, which fits my hot plate the best, or it’s also the aluminum that’s conducting heat better (which seems to be about twice as fast as my other pots).


#10

I should try the soaking method when I have a larger quatity of pasta to cook.
I was given a Calphalon Pasta cooking pot set ( includes steamer) on my 65th birthday party by colleagues as I had mentioned I was planning to buy an All Clad one. Well, it was very to slow to get the water to come to a boil. I gave them away in search for space for my new hobby, that was collecting copper ware.
I started to use my All Clad French bottom wok as that is one of my favorite , always on top of my range. It takes no time at all to bring the water to a boil However, I have to stay close for a minute or two for the pasta to soften to get the ends immersed in the boiling water.
Most of the time, spaghetti means shrimp sautéed in EVOO, lots of garlic, a tin of anchovy and chipotle adobo sauce which is added to the spaghetti and Costco’s pesto as well as reggiano when being served.
I only use thin spaghetti or pappardelle for my wild boar stew. I drain my thin pasta for shrimp before it is al dente, goes back into pan, then I add ladle full of the concentrated shrimp broth from the shrimp shell ( roasted and boiled) to finish cooking it add some more EVOO before assembly. I save the rest of the broth for future use such as paella.
This has turned out perfect for me.
It is almost the same technique as yours.


(Denise) #11

Your pasta combo with the shrimp sounds so delightful. Yum.

Question: When you say that the All-Clad wok has a French bottom, does that mean a it’s flat-bottomed style like you would use on an electric stove? This house came with an electric stove instead of gas so I had to give away my old wok. Thanks!


#12

Yes it is. I have had mine since perhaps 1979, purchased from WS with my set of LTD All Clad.
They now come with copper core.
I have the 14 inch one D5 , I love it.
It stays on top of my range together with my Le Creuset Frying pan.
It makes stir fying very easy and fast., heats up and cleans up fast.
Despite investing in copper and Le Creuset, All Clad is by far the best.
WS has it exclusive for $245 for D5, $205 for D3 excluding the lid which you can buy separately.
I can use my other lids from All Clad but purchased the lid exclusive for the wok which is dome shape.
I have also a huge SS wok, ( do not remember where I bought it from, my husband made a special ring for it) . I only use it to make Singapore noodle for a crowd. Found I hardly use it and really does not work well with the round bottom despite the ring. So, an Asian friend of my son was looking for a large wok last year. Gave it to her as they have a gas stove. They love it !


(Denise) #13

Thank you for sharing. An All-Clad flat bottomed wok is likely in my future since the not-so-beloved electric stove we have will probably be around for years.

Off the original topic: I have a small Le Creuset skillet that I use all the time for omelettes, sauteeing mushrooms, making a layered dip for nachos (guilty confession), baking filleted fish, and anything else for which a vessel that retains heat is an advantage. I appreciate that I can wash that skillet well to remove any residual flavors. A practical workhorse.


#14

I still gravitate to an old eold cast iron for frying and searing
Thought the Le Creuset will do the trick but takes time to clean as well as the fact that Le Creuset suggest not turning the skillet to very high heat .
I only use it when hat I am cooking is too large a portion for mt old old iron skillet.
&The Le Creuset stays on top of my range also
Once. you buy the l Clad, you will love it as the handle also stays cool, nto hot. You do not need mitten for it.