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Pasta tips?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Jambo's thread about his spaghetti sauce got me thinking about how I cook my pasta. Most chefs say to use lots of water and salt because "this is the only time you get to flavor the pasta".

I don't do it like this. My method uses a lot less water and instead uses beef stock. About twice as much liquid as pasta by final volume. I cook the pasta per normal and drain. When drained the pasta is a deeper golden color and not the pale color it normally is. You can also taste the flavor of the stock in the pasta but it's subtle.

I use this method when I'm making a tomato based sauce for the pasta. I don't know if pesto or cream sauces would also work well with this as I haven't tried it that way.

Anyone have any comments on whether I'm on to something or whether I'm totally whacko? To me this cooking method adds good depth to the dish even when using Prego instead of homemade sauce. When I make the sauce with a reduced wine base the dish is extraordinary with lots of complex flavors and a richness I have rarely had when dining out.

So if it's as simple as it seems to enhance the flavor of pasta, what am I misunderstanding about cooking it?
post #2 of 4
First of all, the color in your pasta (assuming it is fully cooked) is simply the color it has absorbed from the beef stock. Now, let's talk about cooking pasta.
First, you must decide how much water you need to use. You don't need a gallon of water to cook every pot of pasta. Small amounts of pasta, like half a pound or so, can be cooked successfully in less water. The reason you need a sufficient amount of water is that the surface starch on the pasta begins to swell up as soon as it hits the boiling water. The interior starch then begins to move outward. Now, with all that starch on the surface of the pasta, it gets pretty sticky and you need enough water in the pot to help wash that starch away from the surface. To cook the pasta evenly you need to submerge all of the pasta in the boiling liquid (I use water) at once and that's difficult to do with just a little bit of water and a handful of pasta.

You need to include salt in the initial mix because pasta absorbs water, and the salt, as it cooks. You're method provides beef stock (and its salt) to be absorbed in the same manner. Speaking of absorption, make sure you add the sauce to the past while it's still hot. As it cools it tends to absorb less of the sauce and pasta with sauce laying on top is not a good thing.
post #3 of 4
While I see nothing wrong with what you are doing, by using beef stock (if it tastes good to you then do it, whether it is "right" or "wrong"), you can only do it the way you described for certain sauces. I wouldn't want to cook the pasta in beef stock if I was doing a seafood, vegetarian, or even a light chicken pasta. It all really depends on your end usage. As for the amount of liquid used to cook pasta in, Myplace has it right, you need plenty of liquid when cooking pasta, or you will have a mess on your hands.
post #4 of 4
Sometimes I cook orzo in chicken broth - it definitely adds more flavor, but doesn't necessarily change the color because the broth is light. For every other kind of pasta, I just cook it in lots of salted water.
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