Thursday, April 30, 2009
A decade or two ago Americans woke up and realized that there was more to Italian cooking than Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs. Some folks went whole-hog and started making their own gnocchi and growing their own fresh herbs to use in rustic sauces. Others just learned a couple of new rules of thumb, like pasta should always be cooked "al dente."
And suddenly a few years ago every dry pasta manufacturer started putting in their on-the-box instructions to cook pasta "al dente."
Is it just me, or is this "al dente" stuff just a load of hooey? I hesitate to even bring it up, since I'm sure it will expose me as a person of low and common tastes, but when I cook dry pasta I always end up going a minute or two longer than whatever the box recommends.
I don't want my dried pasta to be chewy. Inevitably, cooking pasta that way meats you get a soft exterior with a firm, chewy, and unpleasantly dry middle. No, cook it all the way through until it's uniformly soft (but not so mushy that Grandma can gum it without her dentures).
Fresh pasta: that's a different story. Fresh pasta's texture is so different from dry that it's in a class all its own, and you definitely want that cooked "to the tooth"--tender but firm. I'm wondering if this "al dente" nonsense is a case of confusion, of people applying the Italian standard for fresh pasta to the dried boxed variety?
In any event, unless I've taken the time to whip up a batch of fresh pasta, I'll be tacking that extra two minutes on every time.
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