Eater.com's soaked vs. boiled pasta


#1

I am a big fan of Kenji over at eater.com (used to write for A Hamburger Today) and when he posted his theory about soaking versus boiling pasta before using in a dish I was curious and gave it a try. The effect on my baked ziti was horrible.

The theory is that you soaked pasta in hot water for 30 minutes and then add to the sauce and cheese and bake. he result was one of the gummiest, stickiest, baked ziti I have ever tasted. Hard to say this but it was thrown out, like eating the old white paste in grammar school.

As much as I wanted to save the pots and pans clean-up, Kenji’s newest theory is a complete failure.


#2

I was wondering about that technique myself. I recently read his american chop suey recipe, and it seems to contradict what he says about just soaking the pasta before making the zita. In the chop suey recipe, he actually adds quite a bit of liquid that continues to hydrate the pasta while it’s all heating up.

Thanks for taking one for the team, jfood! I think I’m going to pass on this “new technique!”


#3

There is a recipe in Guiliano bugiali’s classical techniques of Italian cooking that has you slowly cook pasta in a dish full of sauce in the oven. The recipe turned out gummy and gross, and if I remember right he said that that was a standard technique for cooking pasta back in the day


(Gwenn) #4

I second that!


(For the Horde!) #5

I am not a fan of Kenji, but I would be surprised that he makes a bold suggestion without trying it himself. Maybe he was testing a different pasta or that he soaked the pasta to a different extend than you did.


#6

I’ve been doing the no boil method with lasagna for years with good results even using regular lasagna noodles instead of the no boil variety. I just use a little more sauce or add a little bit of water to the sauce. I put them in dry


#7

Here is his wrap-up…" If you taste them side by side, you can’t tell the difference between precooked pasta and simply soaked pasta."

I used pasta, he used pasta…check
I soaked for 30 minutes, he soaked for 30 minutes…check

Not much more to it than that.

I’d be interested if others have tried it.


#8

I have in the past – not this lastest but someone else’s low water nonsense – and I won’t be fooled again. Lol. I’m a fan of Food Lab, too. Very surprised to see him advocating this.

Not a fan of no-bake lasagne either.


(John) #9

This just seems like a recipe for disaster - after reading the article I am still a bit confused on how this method makes life any easier anyway.


#10

I don’t know who Kenji is, but is it possible he or she is simply referring to asian noodle dishes?

I haven’t the faintest idea why someone wouldn’t boil Italian pasta. It is made to be boiled.


#11

back in the day when? back in the day very few italians even had ovens.


(John) #12

no in the article he is using gemelli


#13

His recipe is from an 1841 cookbook and is entitled “Maccheroni alla Napoletana.” It’s described as being cooked “between two fires” from above and below, which he says was a predecessor of modern baking. He says he’s found the recipe being used in some villages near Naples today (today being when you wrote the book in the 70s)

He mentions in another recipe, similar to pasticcio, that pasta was not always boiled before being baked. We do that today with no (Ed. No boil) lasagna noodles. He also has what he called a modern version of the technique, from Calabria, in which raw macaroni is baked inside while tomatoes.


#14

So much for that theory!

That’s quite interesting to me, because the first time I went to Naples and ate pizza there, I was struck by how much it resembled a soupy baked pasta dish rather than what I typically expect for pizza. The pizza I had was a very soft dough to begin with, and when put directly onto the searingly hot stone of a word burning over, near the flame, the effect of the tomato sauce/cheese topping was to sort of seal it and steam the dough. The pizza was turned in the oven to char the crust near the flame somewhat evenly, but still it came out of the oven in minutes at most. Only possible to eat with a knife and fork, and it was like a slippery American lasagna (minus meat of course). This was Da Michele, quite some years ago.


#15

But that is different from not cooking at all. Pasta needs to be subjected to heat. It’s not like soaking stale bread. You need to cook the raw flour.

I have never used “no bake” lasagna noodles. What does that mean? Isn’t American lasagna baked?


#16

Lol, I edited that to now read ‘no boil’ noodles. They’re thrown into the baking dish uncooked and cooked by the moisture of the sauce.


#17

That makes sense!

I don’t know if they have that product in Italy. I’d need to look. In Italy, most dishes that resemble what Americans call “lasagna” are made with fresh pasta, not dried pasta, so you wouldn’t pre-cook anything --but it’s possible in the south that they used dry pasta, that is either par-boiled or a “no-boil” product is used.

(For what it’s worth, the word “lasagna” in Italian simply means a flat square noodle, sort of like a post card. You can use those “lasagne” noodles to make lots of different dishes, not just ones baked in layers with fillings.)


#18

Yeah, I don’t get the texture of the soupy center of Neapolitan pizza.

For the 1841 pasta recipe, he applauds the flavor but acknowledges that the gummy, pastier texture is not acceptable by modern standards. it’s been almost 15 years since I made that recipe, but I remember having the same judgment.


(John) #19

The Barilla variety are actually not bad - not as good as fresh lasagne but better than the typical, thick, boiling required, noodles generally available. While we generally use the fresh I don’t think fresh lasagne are readily available in most of the US and the no boil are IMHO a superior alternative to the boil ones. Also Boiling lasagne is a real PITA.


#20

Well, it is the dish! If I hadn’t been expecting “pizza”, I would have had a less biased take on whether or not I “liked” it. But it is much more in the realm of comfort food than the chewy pizza most Americans favour.

Sicilians seem to favour cooking their dried pasta longer than northern Italians do. This “al dente” idea is not religion in Italy. There is a great Neapolitan dish that is made of odds and ends of dried pasta, broken up bits and different shapes, whatever you’ve got, and you boil it till all the pasta is soft (which means some will definitely be over cooked) and then mix it with supersoft boiled chickpeas, and then turn the thing into a frying pan and cook both sides, like a fritatta.

I wonder if some these ancient recipes forget to mention they are using leftover pasta.