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"A Great Sauce Can't Save A Lousy Pasta" (?)

Chinon00 Jul 4, 2008 04:55 PM

I heard someone say this on television the other day and I happen to agree 100%. And as a matter of fact I think that the same holds trues for sandwiches and pizza (i.e. great fillings or toppings can't save a sandwich or pizza made with lousy bread or crust).
The importance of great bread, crust and pasta I believe is so underestimated by our culture when preparing sandwiches, pizza and pasta dishes. And it's the cheapest component! Why are these items which are so simple to prepare so often neglected in primarily mainstream restaurant establishments?

Thanks

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  1. capeanne RE: Chinon00 Jul 4, 2008 05:09 PM

    I totally agree. We are in Boston and go North on weekends . If I don't make it to the Bakery ( Flour) on Friday our snacks , sandwiches etc are inferior even with the Boston beloved Iggys bread. Also we often have homemade pizza on Sunday evenings and if its a bad dough day NOTHING saves that pizza ...I can tell if a resto is going to be good just by the breadbasket they serve .. but then bread is my second favorite food group ( second only to potatoes) Maybe Irish I am ....And the good pasta thing is especially evident ( IMHO) with carbonara ...

    1. t
      Tay RE: Chinon00 Jul 4, 2008 05:10 PM

      While I'd have to agree with you regarding the bread, I'd respectfully disagree with the notion that a great sauce cannot save a lousy pasta.. Granted, it certainly won't enhance it, and it will detract from the dish, but, unless it's cooked to the point of 'mush," if the sauce is spectacular, it can distract from a too al dente, too overcooked or otherwise, too "blah" pasta.
      I too have always wondered why good restaurants often serve awful bread and boring salads.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Tay
        Chinon00 RE: Tay Jul 4, 2008 06:42 PM

        Not to be argumentative, but you first said that you disagree with the notion that a great sauce cannot save a lousy pasta. Then you state that a great sauce can "distract" from a lousy pasta. So which is it, save or distract? ;)

        1. re: Chinon00
          t
          Tay RE: Chinon00 Jul 5, 2008 09:45 PM

          Sorry to be unclear...
          I mean that a great sauce can sometimes 'distract' the diner from noticing just how poorly prepared the pasta may be."Note that I am saying 'distract' not 'detract.' ;-}

          1. re: Tay
            m
            moh RE: Tay Jul 5, 2008 09:55 PM

            Tay, I must admit, I feel that pasta dishes are about the pasta. The sauce is just a condiment, but shouldn't distract you from the pasta. So no matter how good the sauce, if the pasta is no good, then there is nothing to do. I prefer a much lighter sauce to pasta ratio, more Italian in approach than North American. So if I am distracted by a great sauce, and forget I am eating bad pasta, then already there is a problem with the dish.

            Personal preference I am sure! But I do love a delicious simple pasta. You can eat good pasta with just olive oil, garlic, and grated parmesan! So simple, so yummy, so satisfying...

            1. re: moh
              t
              Tay RE: moh Jul 5, 2008 10:04 PM

              moh,
              I am more of a 'sauce person', so I think we just lean in different directions on this one. There have been times when I've been served over cooked pasta and, while not happy about it, I have been able to enjoy it IF the sauce was outstanding, be it red, white, garlic&oil, seafood, primavera, etc. Conversely, if both were substandard, I would not eat it at all. :-}

              1. re: Tay
                m
                moh RE: Tay Jul 6, 2008 06:21 AM

                Very fair Tay! I have had very good sauces on bad pasta, and I could see how a preference for the sauce might save the day. Whereas the poor pasta person would eat the sauce up, but poke woefully at the pasta and think "if only the pasta was good, how wonderful this dish would have been..." I guess I am a glass-half-empty person on this issue!

                1. re: moh
                  t
                  Tay RE: moh Jul 6, 2008 07:36 AM

                  moh
                  Just a personal preference kind of thing. As I wrote to JFood, below, for me, it's akin to a great cheese being served on a blah cracker. If the cheese is outstanding, I just think of the cracker a a textural, not taste, component. Conversely, if the cheese is not great, I'm hoping for more from the cracker. If it's not there, I'll save the carbs and either eat the cheese on it's own, or I'll forgo both and look for something else in the dairy food group: (Like ice cream, lol!) :-}

              2. re: moh
                Miss Needle RE: moh Jul 6, 2008 07:44 AM

                Moh, I'm also with you about pasta dishes being all about the pasta. Well, actually I kind of want it all -- great pasta and great sauce to complement it. But if I had to pick just one, I'd go for the pasta.

                1. re: Miss Needle
                  t
                  Tay RE: Miss Needle Jul 6, 2008 07:57 AM

                  Miss Needle and moh, I find that so interesting. While I respect both of you and your preferences, I cannot imagine chosing the pasta over the sauce. It's probably just the way our families cooked. In our house, it was all about the sauces. The pasta was more a 'distribution vehicle' than anything else. Of course, we also didn't have the numerous pasta choices that are now available

                  1. re: Tay
                    Miss Needle RE: Tay Jul 6, 2008 08:02 AM

                    Growing up in an Asian household, this may stem from years of eating overcooked pasta that my mom cooked. : )

                    1. re: Miss Needle
                      t
                      Tay RE: Miss Needle Jul 6, 2008 08:11 AM

                      That's funny... My mom often managed to overcook the pasta as well. On some occasions, I recall my Father and my Grandparents "bread dunking" the sauce rather than eat her pasta..

                    2. re: Tay
                      m
                      moh RE: Tay Jul 6, 2008 02:19 PM

                      Tay, I admit it is a bit odd, but I am a noodle freak! I love to eat noodles of all varieties! I also love to watch them being made. No problem! I suspect a lot of people are sauce people.

                      But Miss Needle is right. Isn't it amazing when both sauce and noodle are perfect...

                      1. re: moh
                        t
                        Tay RE: moh Jul 7, 2008 06:05 AM

                        moh... "A noodle freak".. How cute is that? lol!.
                        Yes in a perfect world, we get to have world peace, save the polar bears AND get the perfect ratio of great pasta and delicious sauces...
                        Until then... Sigh!

          2. jfood RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 05:00 AM

            When jfood started thinking of his response he thought that a sauce could NOT save a lousy pasta, and then when he read the rest of the OP (bread part) he started having almost a minimum standard that needed to be adhered to, and then reading the couple of posts here he came to the following position after the clever use of words by Tay, Thank you. 'distract' not 'detract.'

            Jfood can eat and relish in eating Hazan's Bolgnese on great homemade pasta or overcooked bad boxed pasta, he could eat Katz's pastrami and some heavenly rye bread or lousy white bread, and great pizza toppings on almost variety of crust.

            So has the topping "saved" the pasta? nope. Does it save the dish and more importantly the enjoyment of the dish? As Tay stated, it distracts from the dish, and in a way detracts from the overall quality (DAH), but if jfood has the option of a great sauce on lousy pasta, great pastrami on lousy bread and great pizza toppings on lousy crust versus the opposite, he'll take that trade every day.

            11 Replies
            1. re: jfood
              t
              Tay RE: jfood Jul 6, 2008 06:35 AM

              JF
              You have such a 'common sensical' way of putting things. Even when I choose another window, I always enjoy and appreciate the view from yours. I think for me, when it comes to the whole, "Can this dish be saved?"sauce/ pasta,scenario, the deal breaker is more textural than anything else. While I love a pasta that has it's own flavor, if it doesn't, I can still enjoy the dish if I can think of it as a vehicle to convey an outstanding sauce. Much like a blah cracker carr be an empty canvas used to display the artistry of a delicious cheese. I'm not sure if there is any agreed upon specific defination of 'lousey' pasta. As stated above,for me it would be textural/degree of doneness more than anything else. On a personal taste level,a great sauce can save a non descript bowl of well cooked pasta with nothing going for it except the correct degree of doneness (Is 'doneness' even a word?).
              On the other hand, tasty pasta, no matter how perfectly cooked, doesn't stand a chance against a poorly prepared, too salty/spicy/oily/creamy/ whatever else, sauce.
              On the other side of the napkin: For me, unless it's been transformed into something else entirely, bad (bread basket) bread cannot be saved, no matter what, butter/oil/roasted garlic/caponata(sp?)/or other topping, is served. There is just no excuse for a restaurant to serve miserable bread/rolls

              1. re: Tay
                jfood RE: Tay Jul 6, 2008 07:10 AM

                jfood doesn't get this whole bread basket as a leading indicator thing. yes he LOVES great bread, just look at what he ate over the last 24 hours, thank you farmers market, but if his favorites restaurants put a couple of slices of Wonder Bread in a basket with rock hard butter, and then serves him the best foie gras and braised beef, the Wonder Bread is a distant memory.

                And to the converse serve jfood some great artisan bread with homemade salted butter and then serve lousy food, jfood has a major :-(((

                1. re: jfood
                  t
                  Tay RE: jfood Jul 6, 2008 07:26 AM

                  JF
                  I hear you. Only being able to speak from my own experiences, I've been served great bread/rolls in bad/mediocre restaurants, (Some local Diners and one chain restaurant come to mind) but never bad bread/rolls in good/great restaurants.
                  As for the whole, Wonder Bread/rock hard butter Vs great foie gras and braised beef... Well, that ain't happening.. As least not in any scenario I can imagine. :-}

                  1. re: jfood
                    MMRuth RE: jfood Jul 6, 2008 07:59 AM

                    And, believe it or not, properly toasted Wonder bread is surprisingly good for toast points on which to serve foie gras.

                    For me, a great pasta dish is a successful marriage of sauce and pasta and either component can ruin the dish. I don't like too much sauce - I want a balance - just the right amount of sauce with each bite.

                    1. re: MMRuth
                      t
                      Tay RE: MMRuth Jul 6, 2008 08:23 AM

                      MMR
                      After all these years of eating grain breads, for me, Wonder bread has a texture that's too 'styrofoamy." Even toasted..
                      I agree about the balance of pasta/sauce being the ideal mix.. Of course, that too is a matter of personal taste. We're just kicking around the OP 's musing as to whether or not a great sauce can save a lousy pasta.. Most seem to think the answer is "No". For me it would be what defines 'lousy' pasta.. :-}

                      1. re: MMRuth
                        jfood RE: MMRuth Jul 6, 2008 12:12 PM

                        MM

                        take the crusts off the wonder bread and push them into muffin tins. Fill with gruyere, diced tomato and basila and bake the wonder "cups". A great chef in San Francisco gave that recipe to jfood 20 years ago and they always are the first apps eaten.

                        1. re: jfood
                          t
                          Tay RE: jfood Jul 7, 2008 06:09 AM

                          JF...
                          No fair! You could fill a sneaker with those delicious ingredients and it would taste amazing. It's like bacon. You can add bacon to pretty much anything and it will immediately cause it to be scrumptious.

                          1. re: Tay
                            jfood RE: Tay Jul 7, 2008 07:25 AM

                            Tay

                            Jfood thinks you've hit on something. He willadd a little chopped bacon to this. That's a great idea, but he will pass on the sneaker, though. :-))

                            1. re: jfood
                              t
                              Tay RE: jfood Jul 7, 2008 09:56 AM

                              Scarecrow , I love you best of all... :-}

                        2. re: MMRuth
                          Gooseberry RE: MMRuth Jul 9, 2008 01:25 PM

                          MMRuth, I once would have disagreed with you about wonder bread... until I ate a softshell crab sandwich at the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco. Grilled, whole softshell crab, mayo and seasonings, with 'plastic' bread. And it was a revelation. Because it was so all about the crab, any bread with personality would have ruined it. The wonderbread was there to be soft in opposition to the crunchy crab, and give me something to hold on to. And that's the closest I've ever come to respecting wonderbread.

                          But to go back on topic - I'd go with pasta over sauce (Assuming one has to choose!). I think that's why I prefer lighter olive oil based sauces over tomato, cream or other saucy sauces - you can taste the pasta better.

                          1. re: Gooseberry
                            MMRuth RE: Gooseberry Jul 9, 2008 01:31 PM

                            Although, as a child in Germany at a U.S. Army school, but without access to the PX, I envied Wonder Bread, Welch's grape jelly and Skippy peanut butter sandwiches, I've not eaten much Wonder bread since then. However, my husband, who, at least in his earlier years, had a much more developed palate than mine, swears by Wonder bread for toast points. I like brioche as well.

                  2. Chinon00 RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 08:56 AM

                    First to define the term "lousy pasta" it is to me one that we are all familiar with; relatively flavorless, overcooked pasta with therefore no significant body. And it thus contributes nothing to a "pasta" dish.
                    Being comfortable with the idea of reducing the bread in a sandwich, pasta in a pasta dish, and crust in a pizza to merely a means to convey meat, sauces and toppings to one's mouth misses the point of each doesn’t it? I’m not telling anyone that it can’t taste good or be enjoyable but openly neglecting the foundation, the platform of each dish just seems odd to me (and uniquely American). There are certainly exceptions namely the Delicatessen sandwich where the bread is rendered virtually inconsequential by design due to the large volume of meat used.
                    To address the reverse scenario I agree that well prepared bread or pasta can’t save poor meats or sauces either. You need both. But the foundation (to me anyway) should never be ignored in these dishes.
                    Thanks

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chinon00
                      t
                      Tay RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 09:25 AM

                      When referring to the pasta as a foundation, I'd have to I agree with you. I was just thinking worst case scenarios. You're right: It may well be a cultural thing. I would eat a blah pasta brightened by a great sauce. I would not eat a blah or even a good/well textured pasta with a flavorless sauce. For your palate, pasta is it's own end. For mine, it's what gets the sauce to my mouth while providing substance to the meal. Very interesting thread, Thank you :-}

                    2. Sam Fujisaka RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 09:35 AM

                      Don't pair good and bad. Both have to be good for the dish to be good.

                      Pasta is bad: cook another batch or eat something else and save the sauce.
                      Sauce is bad: save it for yourself later and make an oil, garlic, and shaved parm sauce.
                      In restaurant, either case: send it back or don't go back

                      Bread is bad: eat something else and save the sandwich ingredients for another day.
                      Ingredients are bad: enjoy the good bread with a soup.
                      Bad ingredients in purchased sandwhich: don't go there again.
                      Bad bread in bread dish: out of luck.

                      Pizza comes out of the oven and sauce or crust is bad: out of luck.
                      In restaruant: send it back or don't go back.
                      Take out or delivery: out of luck, don't go there or call there again.

                      Of course, I pretty much make sandwiches, pasta dishes, and pizza at home rather than ordering when eating out. The rare times I order these dishes, it is because I know that the both components of the pairings will be good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        poptart RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 6, 2008 05:46 PM

                        Exactly my feeling, Sam! Remove the "offending" ingredient from the equation and preserve the good parts.
                        Personally, I can't stand overcooked pasta. Since most restaurants seem to serve borderline or full-on overcooked pasta, I find I rarely order it out. Or if I do, say with some kind of seafood sauce, I find I eat the sauce only. Good for my calorie/carb intake but slightly disappointing nonetheless :-).

                        In Italy, however, I feel safe ordering pasta because it seems to usually be cooked perfectly.

                      2. vonwotan RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 02:06 PM

                        To my palate, good pasta can make a meal and bad pata can ruin even the best of sauces. The same can be said for rice or bread. I frequently view these as the foundation or cornerstone, not just a vehicle for a sauce. Not only the flavor but the texture, size, thickness or density can contribute to or detract from the dish. As in other matters of tase this is, to some degree, subjective and may be cultural.

                        1. vvvindaloo RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 02:57 PM

                          I definitely come down on the carb side of things.
                          Mushy pasta: fork down.
                          Mushy pizza crust: slice down.
                          Bad bread: remove contents of sandwich and eat them separately :)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: vvvindaloo
                            Boccone Dolce RE: vvvindaloo Jul 6, 2008 07:23 PM

                            I speed read- so when I skimmed your reply I'm sitting here thinking WHY does she take out the stuffings of a sandwich if she has bad breath? WHY does eating with the fork turned upside down make a difference? How could someone possibly eat bad pizza upside down?
                            The danger of speed reading in bad lighting when yer tired.....

                            Anyway- I like what I like and will just stop eating it and move on if I deem it inedible. I say a great sauce could POSSIBLY save a lousy pasta-I'm often easily amused.

                            Bad SAUCE, on the otherhand- gets thrown across the room.
                            ;o)

                            1. re: Boccone Dolce
                              vvvindaloo RE: Boccone Dolce Jul 6, 2008 07:37 PM

                              More like boccone divertente!

                          2. mrbozo RE: Chinon00 Jul 6, 2008 03:29 PM

                            I don't like good bread disguised with mediocre toppings. I don't like good rice swamped with so-so ingredients. I don't like an excellent pizza crust smothered by run-of-the-mill toppings. I don't like good pasta swimming in grade school sauce.

                            But why is it relatively difficult to be served good bread, rice, pizza crust, or pasta?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mrbozo
                              Chinon00 RE: mrbozo Jul 6, 2008 04:54 PM

                              My theory is that we are infantilized when it comes to many things including cuisine and particularly with bread. I took my son to a bakery where they make baguettes daily and his reaction to the place was that it "stunk". This is a natural reaction for a child I think given choices of bread made with bleached white flour that is virtually devoid of taste (i.e. "wonderbread"). The idea that bread shouldn't have any smell or taste is again natural to them (some kids even had their moms remove the crust remember?) And so the sandwich becomes all about the PB&J or bologna or egg salad.
                              So this for many of us naturally extends into adulthood I think because we're never allowed to appreciate bread from the hearth.

                              1. re: Chinon00
                                mrbozo RE: Chinon00 Jul 7, 2008 03:45 PM

                                I hear you. My parents came to Canada after WWII and I grew up in an immigrant neighbourhood. Dark, coarse rye bread was the household staple: it had flavour, no additives, and a hand-cut slice with unsalted cultured butter was a small meal in itself.

                                Our downstairs neighbours were Italian from Abruzzi. I hung out with Antonio, the son. His folks spoke no English, but man could his mama cook (mine was no slouch either, but different cuisine). A bowl of homemade pasta and homemade sauce and a grating of Reggiano ... Good times.

                            2. PaulaT RE: Chinon00 Jul 7, 2008 05:59 AM

                              There was a thread in here, which I can find about the 'sides' being the most important item (ie. syrup and butter more important than the pancake), well If the sauce is great - I would gladly get a spoon, eat the sauce and give the pasta to the dog (and hope it doesn't constitute animal cruelty).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PaulaT
                                t
                                Tay RE: PaulaT Jul 7, 2008 07:15 AM

                                Paula
                                My 2 felines have licked the pasta sauce off various types of pasta w/o actually eating any of it...

                              2. ipsedixit RE: Chinon00 Jul 8, 2008 09:49 AM

                                I'm not exactly sure where I come out on this debate, but I do know that a good veal and porcini ragu sauce can save just about any type of pasta -- no matter how lousy.

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  Chinon00 RE: ipsedixit Jul 8, 2008 11:06 AM

                                  I guess we're saying that you can't have a great pasta dish using lousy pasta, but that you could still be left with something that tastes good. And I believe that often this is what we are getting and sadly is even what many of us expect from a pasta dish hear in the States; that the pasta can or should serve as a mere conduit for sauce.

                                  Thanks

                                  1. re: Chinon00
                                    mrbozo RE: Chinon00 Jul 8, 2008 12:57 PM

                                    Not to mention the preference to have the pasta swimming in sauce so that the flavour and texture of the pasta is drowned by the "condiment". There is also a preference for having toppings obliterate the taste of a hamburger or a sausage on a bun.

                                    It's a question of balance.

                                    1. re: Chinon00
                                      m
                                      moh RE: Chinon00 Jul 8, 2008 01:52 PM

                                      "and I believe that often this is what we are getting and sadly is even what many of us expect from a pasta dish hear in the States; that the pasta can or should serve as a mere conduit for sauce."

                                      This is exactly why I rarely order pasta in restaurants in North America. Too much sauce, not enough balance. I really love good pasta, and I prefer it is not smothered with too much sauce, no matter how tasty.

                                      1. re: moh
                                        t
                                        Tay RE: moh Jul 8, 2008 03:13 PM

                                        moh
                                        I just thought of something I did last week. I ordered a dish that offered the choice of pasta, potato or rice as a side. I requested the pasta, but instead of the standard "red" sauce, I asked that it be plated with the entree, that had a delicious brown mushroom/sauteed onion gravy. They were happy to do so. The result was very satisfying and the sauce accompanying the entree was wonderful with the pasta.
                                        If pasta IS your entree, perhaps you could request your pasta plain with a little sauce on the side. That way you could add sauce as desired.... :-}

                                        1. re: Tay
                                          m
                                          moh RE: Tay Jul 9, 2008 08:56 AM

                                          What a lovely idea! I bet that mushroom sauce was great with pasta.

                                          Yes, i could give that a go! Although, I must admit I love it when the pasta and the sauce are amalgamated in the pan for a few seconds before serving to really finish the sauce. But certainly, in places where they don't do that anyway, they just add the sauce on top, that would be a fine solution.

                                          1. re: moh
                                            Miss Needle RE: moh Jul 9, 2008 12:53 PM

                                            "I love it when the pasta and the sauce are amalgamated in the pan for a few seconds before serving to really finish the sauce. "

                                            Yes!!! That's how I like my pasta as well! It tastes much better that way. One of Batali's tricks is to cook the pasta with the sauce for the last few minutes. Makes a huge difference in the taste.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle
                                              MMRuth RE: Miss Needle Jul 9, 2008 01:05 PM

                                              Definitely - that's how the sauce and pasta marry, in most cases. I usually just scoop out the pasta from the water into the pan with the sauce, and then heat for a minute.

                                              1. re: MMRuth
                                                t
                                                Tay RE: MMRuth Jul 9, 2008 01:13 PM

                                                Ok...
                                                Next time I go and I order this dish, (Veal Aubergine) I'm going to ask if the chef will be so kind as to toss the pasta in with the entree/sauce. I didn't want to drive him too crazy.by being one of those annoying people who 'rewrites' the dish but you people have convinced/encouraged me to ask. :-}

                                                1. re: MMRuth
                                                  m
                                                  moh RE: MMRuth Jul 10, 2008 10:27 PM

                                                  Yes, and I reserve a bit of pasta water in case it gets too thick. Really makes a big difference in flavour.

                                                  I have gotten this approach to pasta from Batali's show Molto Mario. I was a sceptic at first, but now I swear by it. I miss that show.

                                                  1. re: moh
                                                    vvvindaloo RE: moh Jul 11, 2008 09:24 AM

                                                    Molto Mario was one of the best cooking shows ever made for TV, in that it really was the first show to share everyday Italian technique and philosophy to a widespread audience. My family (Italian) already knew to salt a large pot of water for pasta, to drain it at the point of al dente, and to reserve some of the salty/starchy water for sauces... but most non-Italians (and many Italians, too) didn't. The public's awareness and level of sophistication re: Italian food, and what we expect from restaurants, has skyrocketed over the past 15 years or so (at least in NYC). People can say what they want about him, but Mario was an excellent teacher who has already left an unmistakeable mark on the Italian food scene, including retail demand and availability of imports.
                                                    I miss that show.

                                                    1. re: vvvindaloo
                                                      Chinon00 RE: vvvindaloo Jul 11, 2008 10:51 AM

                                                      The quote from the OP is by Anthony Bourdain but my philosophy on pasta and bread is straight from Molto Mario. I think he said of bread one time that a sandwich made with great bread doesn't really need anything else. I had a simple sandwich near Firenze once comprised of just bread and cheese. Now the cheese was fresh, briney and had an animal sweetness to it. But the bread, which I saw having olive oil worked into the dough before baking, was just unreal.

                                                      1. re: Chinon00
                                                        mrbozo RE: Chinon00 Jul 11, 2008 11:34 AM

                                                        As my father used to say to me and my sister when we complained that there wasn't anything to eat in the house, "There's bread and butter. If that's not good enough then you aren't hungry." Mind you the bread was an unsliced heavy loaf of dark, coarse rye and the butter was cultured: slice of that bread with some butter was delicious and almost a meal in itself.

                                                        Needless to say I agree with Batali. Truly good bread requires little or no accompaniment. I'll say the same for pasta and pizza (though i do love my Montreal-style pie): less is more.

                                                        1. re: mrbozo
                                                          vvvindaloo RE: mrbozo Jul 12, 2008 08:20 PM

                                                          Panini in Italy often have only one ingredient inside the bread: a couple of paper- thin slices of mortadella, salame, prosciutto, etc. and that's all you really need when the quality of the bread pulls so much weight.

                                    2. danhole RE: Chinon00 Jul 9, 2008 10:27 AM

                                      I've been thinking about this topic, and debating how I feel about the questions posed. I was ready to jump on the sauce can save a lousy pasta, because I really like the sauces more than I like the pasta. As others have said, I think I got burned out with pasta due to gummy stuff mom would serve. I really only like thin, or small pastas, vs. the wide noodles (except for lasagna.) BUT then I remembered a spaghetti dinner I cooked that turned out awful. I had tried a new brand of pasta, that was supposed to be "superior", but it came out very gummy and mushy, even though I followed the directions and tested it frequently. Even though my sauce was outstanding (as usual *wink*) there was no way to truly enjoy the meal. I should have set the sauce to the side before adding to the pasta, but I didn't and it was ruined. We ate it, but ended up tossing the leftovers. Most times though I love the sauces more than the pasta.

                                      Bread has to be good on a sandwich, and not too tough, or the toppings go on the plate and eaten with a fork, and pizza crust needs to be thin and crispy, or I am not pleased with it. If it is too thick or doughy, I just pass on it.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: danhole
                                        t
                                        Tay RE: danhole Jul 9, 2008 12:39 PM

                                        danhole
                                        "BUT then I remembered a spaghetti dinner I cooked that turned out awful. I had tried a new brand of pasta, that was supposed to be "superior", but it came out very gummy and mushy, even though I followed the directions and tested it frequently. Even though my sauce was outstanding (as usual *wink*) there was no way to truly enjoy the meal. "

                                        I think your spaghettti dinner is another example of texture Vs taste.I think boring, underseasoned, blah tasting pasta can be saved by a punched out sauce.. If the pasta is overcooked to mush or undercooked so that it's still tough/crunchy, then I don't think much can be done, no matter how great the sauce. If I was home, and didn't have any more pasta to cook, I'd have to dump the pasta and just serve the sauce over another starch, EG: Potatoes or rice. If they weren't an option or the time constraint was too great, I'd break out the pizza dough or english muffins and some toppings/cheese and make some pizza.. I live in "Pasta Land" so I'd have to say, being served overcooked pasta in a restaurant (Even a neighborhood pizzaria) is a rarity here. . .

                                        1. re: Tay
                                          Gooseberry RE: Tay Jul 9, 2008 01:30 PM

                                          Tay, I think the key word you used was 'gummy'. Overcooked pasta isn't bad pasta - it's badly cooked pasta. But inferior brands - no matter how carefully you cook them, they're gummy. I think they're probably processed to roughly, and/or the durum wheat is of poor quality.

                                          1. re: Gooseberry
                                            t
                                            Tay RE: Gooseberry Jul 9, 2008 02:22 PM

                                            Goose..
                                            Well put, however, 'inferior brands' are in the mouth of the eater. I know plenty of people who are perfectly happy with store brand, or discount brands of pasta. If it's cooked with plenty of water to the desired consistancy, they don't necessarily find it gummy and they wouldn't know DeCecco from Ronzoni nor would they care. If they're happy with it, I'm happy for them. :-}
                                            I'm talking about poorly cooked ((Mostly overcooked) pasta. For me, once the texture is kaput, there is no saving the dish regardless of the brand.

                                            1. re: Tay
                                              Gooseberry RE: Tay Jul 10, 2008 01:40 PM

                                              I must admit to accidentally overcooking pasta (a good brand) and still eating it, although I'm more likely to toss it with butter, salt and grated cheese and save it for microwaving for breakfast, rather than eat it with a carefully prepared sauce (rather remake the pasta - I always keep tons of it in the house). Even though the texture may be wrong, the flavour is still good, and I pretend it's pasta porridge. Breakfast of champions...

                                              I lived in Italy for a while, with Italians. Who literally lived off pasta five nights a week, eaten with sauce bottled by Mama and dragged back from visits home.Even I can't eat pasta every night! These Italians came from the south, so only cooked and ate DeCecco, which was more expensive than the northern favourite, Barilla. They'd sniff when I bought Barilla - say it was inferior, and that they could taste the difference. I never put them to a blind taste test, although I now wish I had. I can't tell the difference, myself, which emphasises your point that good is a subjective term

                                              But while I can't tell the difference between DeCecco and Barilla,local pastas made with local durum - I can tell the difference instantly, whether eaten raw or cooked (I have a weak spot for raw!).

                                          2. re: Tay
                                            danhole RE: Tay Jul 9, 2008 01:39 PM

                                            Tay, the problem was that the pasta didn't seem mushy at the time, but when I mixed it with the sauce it practically disintegrated. My DH said I stirred it too much, but I really didn't and even if I had, it was never like that before with my regular brand. Believe me, the sauce was good enough to eat like a soup, which we would have done if I could have peeked into the future!

                                        2. m
                                          MartinDC RE: Chinon00 Jul 9, 2008 11:33 AM

                                          There must be a lot of people eating bad pasta and bad sauce. If you simply make it the way you like it, or learn to, then problem is solved. If someone else makes it and serves it, then be grateful and gracious, and say it's the best you've ever had. And if you are delegating the task entirely to an anonymous line cook in a restaurant, well, ... ?

                                          1. Chinon00 RE: Chinon00 Jul 10, 2008 05:07 AM

                                            As I've stated elsewhere, I remember being in Italy for the first time with friends years ago. We ordered pizza and got pepperoni. Well the pizza comes out and I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that it had maybe three small pepperoni slices on it. We were a bit surprised at that but all of us ate it anyway without complaint. Well after a week or so of eating pizza there and at other places we all then realized that it wasn't about the pepperoni or other toppings (which sort of just perfumed the pie) it was about the absolutely sublime crust and cheese; something that we hadn't noticed initially (despite the fact that we'd gleefully wolfed the whole thing down).

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Chinon00
                                              t
                                              Tay RE: Chinon00 Jul 10, 2008 08:17 AM

                                              Ahhh... A topic for an entirely different thread. :-}

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