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Pre-cooking pasta?

  • g

I know some restaurants precook pasta, then dunk it in hot water for a minute or so when the order comes up.

What's the best way to do this? To rinse (which I usually don't do with Italian pasta) or not to rinse?

To oil, or not to oil?

How to store, best way to refresh?

I have time to experiment, but I figure there's a generally accepted method, and someone here either does it, or has worked in a kitchen that does...Thanks!

Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com

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  1. Hi GG -- I've done this during a brief stint working for a catering company. Not sure it's the best method, but we would par-boil (within 2 minutes of ultimate done-ness) and strain into a colander. No rinse, no oil. Yes, the strands will stick together but will come undone in rapidly boiling water when you reheat. The key is the reboiling in plenty of boiling H2O-- difficult in a supermarket perhaps.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      Naw, private event, I'll have a burner....Will it work for shaped pastas, like penne and those curly things?

      Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com

      1. re: galleygirl

        Yes. And I really wouldn't oil the cooked stuff, despite the advice from others. It will end up floating on the surface of your pot of abundant rapidly boiling salted water. Good luck!

    2. I've used the precooking technique for large groups. I take the pasta out when extra-al dente. It seems to cook even when refrigerated. Toss in olive oil to keep from getting gummy and reconstitute in boiling water before serving.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim H.

        I too would toss with oil, but do not rise. Tossing with oil prevents the pasta from sticking also, the oil prevents the pasta from soaking up any more liquid.

      2. I would not add oil if you are intending to eventually add the pasta to a sauce. Yes, if you do add oil it will stop it from absorbing more water, but you will also build a barrier from the ultimate destination: the sauce.

        I'd rinse to stop the cooking. It is not a preferred method to precook pasta. But, if you have to, i think this is the sacrifice: you have to rinse.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nicole
          mrs. orthweinn

          Hmm... If the pasta is being cooked again the oil will simply boiled out. The water must be changed frequently when you're doing the second boil. If you rinse the pasta it will absorbed more water, hence it won't have any more starch to absorb the sauce. It's like eating warm pasta salad.

          The key is never add oil when cooking or rinse after cooking. The sauce should wait for the pasta and never the other way around. My suggestion is to use fresh pasta, so your cooking time will be relatively the same as pre-cooked pasta.

          The only time to rinse is when you're making pasta salad.

        2. Hmm, no consensus here...;)

          I MUST cook in advance, it's for 1000 "Tastes" at a tasting...Unless the client springs for fresh pasta, which I doubt...I know the sauce must wait for the pasta,but that won't happen this time...

          It *has* to be able to absorb sauce; the sauce is the point of the whole tasting; yikes!

          And soggy pasta is a no-no....

          Looks like I'll be back to the hot stove....

          Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com

          1. how long do you need to "hold" the pasta? or, how far in advance before serving?
            this is halfway between: bring water to a full rolling boil (no oil) with salt - add pasta, stir, turn off heat, cover. Let sit. Drain and serve. I don't know that this method will work for your timing needs...but it may be worth experimenting...

            1. Well, yes, there seems to be no real consensus here so I'll just add my two cents. The way they did it at the Heathman where I did my culinary school externship was to precook, not rinse, and oil the pasta close to al dente. Then toss it with the sauce in question. This was a per order thing and not a catering 1000 person thing so this may or may not make sense for you. I, myself, never rinse no matter what and am a big fan of the oil. I don't reboil the pasta in water since I find that tossing in a hot pan with sauce or whatever heats the noodles up fine. I'd say to do a small test batch for friends using a couple of methods that you like and see which ones taste best. Just make sure said friends don't drink too much before giving their opinion. Good luck!

              1. i cool on sheets and lightly oil-note; do not use olive oil or a blend as this will sour after a couple of days if done that far in advance. A buddy of mine-whose family has run an italian restaurant for 45 years-lightly rinses with no oil.

                To each his/her own. We both cook professionally and have our methods :).

                To store, i will portion into sandwich baggies. If your doing a taste, portion maybe 10 portions into a bag(or whatever works for you)whether its 1oz, 2oz etc.... You will be able to keep track of your pasta better and know how many portions you are starting with, and hopefullly end up with.

                Reheat back in your boilng water, toss with your sauce in saute pan over heat, garnish, go.

                1. Someone will report you to the ASPCP: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pasta.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Karl S

                    read the rest of the posts. I'd like to see anyone trying to pull off 1000 tastings a la minute-the weeds are deep out there.

                    Constructive help would be appreciated.

                    1. re: dano

                      I was joking. Chill.

                      But, given a choice, I would never serve pasta (other than things like lasagne) en masse precisely because it virtually guarantees that it will not be at its best. It's one reason I rarely eat pasta at restaurants unless I am fairly sure that they don't prep it ahead. Pasta is one of those dishes that is often better experienced at home, if you know how to do it right.

                      1. re: Karl S.

                        no sweat :). many, if not most, joints have no clue how to cook, let alone hold, pasta.