Overcooked Pasta - yuck.
1.) Does anyone else find that if you cook pasta as long as the directions state that it isn't al dente enough? As a rule, I always reduce cooking time by at least 2 minutes, even on De Cecco.
2.) Just made a pasta salad. Cooked pasta very al dente, added while still hot to vinegar/tomato/garlic mixture and added other ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours until we ate. The pasta was incredibly mushy, no bite to it at all. Why would this be, especially if I purposefully under-cooked it? I love pasta salads, but don't know why this happened and until I do I'll be scared to make another one. Help me, please!
I would shock the pasta first to stop it from cooking. ( Ice bath) Also the warm starch would really soak up the acid and it would begin to break it down and increase the mushy, mealy effect. A little olive oil on the chilled pasta before adding your vinigrette can help
Test a piece straight out of the boiling water EARLY - see how it "bites". When it's almost there, stop doing anything else because the last little bit of cooking will go quickly.
Shock it, absolutely. And then drain thoroughly - I'm talking about 15 minutes at least, maybe 30. Okay, maybe it's not dripping water all those minutes, but chances are (it's my belief) that the starches, just out of the water, need some time to reach an equilibrium throughout the interior of each piece. That, I think, is why restaurant pasta (when made from dry, not fresh) has a better texture ... it's been cooked in large batches, set aside for some time, and re-heated quickly in hot water just before serving.
Pasta salad - the "toss with oil" idea is good ... "still hot" is probably what went very wrong ... did you really need that vinegar? Room-temp pasta with tomato, garlic, and 'other ingredients' might have done as well without - or at least, dress at the last minute.
decent pastas like barilla and de cecco i just cook til *done*. the box is a guideline, so i set the timer for 2 or 3 minutes less and then keep checking it.
personally, i've never had *good* pasta salad. only mushy icky stuff. think of it as having open pores when it's hot. whatever you pour on top soaks right in. let it sit, it gets mushy. the reasoning behind not rinsing pasta is so that it stays kind of sticky, so the sauce will cling. with cold rinsed pasta the dressing will just be slipping all over it, again making it soggy.
i think pasta salad is a bad idea. sorry.