Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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Cooking Tip of the Week (July 23, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on July 24, 2015 at 12:25 AM

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The Dos and Don’ts of Cooking Pasta

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        There are a few simple ways to make sure that your pasta is cooked to perfection. First, always cook your pasta in a large pot with plenty of lightly salted water. If there is not enough water in the pot, as the pasta cooks, the water will become soupy from the pasta starches and it will not cook properly. Bring the water up to a boil before you add the pasta and be sure to stir it well so that the pasta does not stick together or to the bottom of the pot. Once the pasta has been added, continue cooking at a medium boil. There needs to be ample bubbling in the water to keep the pasta moving, but not so much that it will cause the water to froth.

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        The only thing you should add to the pasta cooking water is salt. It will prevent the pasta from tasting flat. Add as much salt as you like to suit your taste. However, the general rule is that pasta cooking water should be lightly salted so that it does not overpower the “condimento” or sauce that you have chosen to dress the pasta. While some cooks suggest adding a drizzle of olive oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking, I disagree. Assuming this method is valid, then in theory it should also serve to prevent the “condimento” from sticking to pasta. It only makes sense that if the pasta is coated with a film of oil, then the sauce will not cling to it. Therefore, the better method is simply to stir the pasta frequently.

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        Pasta should be served “al dente” or firm. The best way to tell when the pasta is ready is by tasting it. This is the only way to know for sure whether it is to your liking. Forget about throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks or any other crazy method that you may have heard about. When the pasta is ready, you can use a spider or tongs to transfer it from the pot to a deep frying pan that contains your “condimento”. If you wish, pull the pasta out of the water a minute early and let it finish cooking in the “condimento”. The other option is to strain the pasta in a colander, transfer it to a serving platter and then immediately dress it with the “condimento”. Finally, never rinse cooked pasta under running water. This will remove the natural starches and prevent your “condimento” from clinging to the pasta.   Following these few tips will ensure that your pasta turns out perfect every time. Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking Tips

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1 Comment

Reply mariabella
10:54 PM on July 26, 2015 
Interesting!! All your tips are so helpful, thanks. . . . . .

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Bill's Cooking Tip of the Month


Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients


 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

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My Italian Heritage

 My Great Grandparents, Vita and Onofrio Abruzzo, from the town of Santa Margherita di Belice, Sicily pictured here with my grandfather Vito "Bill" in the center.

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