Wednesday, February 25, 2009

GF Pasta Preparation

Do you really need lots of water to prepare pasta? That's the question Harold McGee explores in the unsubtly titled New York Times article "How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?" (February 24, 2009).

McGee finds that you generally don't need the amount of water typically recommended on the package. This can save energy as well as water—and, I think, also prevent scalding due to draining unwieldy pasta pots. (I understand that this painful condition is not unknown in Emergency Rooms.) McGee also finds that dry pasta can be placed in water even before the water reaches the boiling point. He also encourages people to try drinking pasta water or using it in a sauce.

Does all this apply to gluten-free pasta? Well, I've long used less than the recommended amount of water, so I'd say that you can definitely taper off if you haven't already. The only thing to look out for is forgetting to check the pot, letting the water boil away to nothing.

Otherwise, I'd say it's better to stick with the instructions for the pasta until you become more familiar with it. Unlike hardy wheat-based pastas, some gluten-free pastas seem to need precisely timed boiling to keep it from being too hard or too mushy. (In my experience that's especially true for potato pastas.) There's little risk in experimenting every now and then, but given the realities of timed food preparation, it's almost inevitable that even if you try cook a favorite pasta "by the book" every time, you'll still become acquainted with its properties at varying timings! And go ahead and try using the water for something if you're interested in that kind of thing.

While I'm on the subject, I'll also go one step farther and venture that salt isn't necessary for pasta preparation either. Personally, I get enough flavor from sauces, freshly ground cheese, and such.

But there's one thing you should never, ever, mix with pasta....

Source (00:48)

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