HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Cooking pasta without continual boiling

greygarious Dec 30, 2008 09:40 AM

A friend who is not a good cook insists that it is unnecessary to keep the water boiling.
She brings water to a boil, adds the pasta, and once the water returns to boiling, stirs it, covers it, and turns off the burner, setting the timer for the minutes specified on the package. Skeptically, I tried this with a pound of rotini, and it worked perfectly, without any boil-over. Of course, the shape of rotini makes them unlikely to stick together - although my friend says her spaghetti doesn't clump when cooked this way, either. Not using extra electricity or gas is a plus, as is less kitchen heat in hot weather. I am also thinking that the pasta pot could "multi-task" by simultaneously making pasta and hard-boiled eggs.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. krisrishere RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 09:45 AM

    If this works with spaghetti etc. sign me up! I just got my gas bill and I nearly had a heart attack.

    2 Replies
    1. re: krisrishere
      f
      fourunder RE: krisrishere Jan 1, 2009 08:08 PM

      Kris,

      I made Pasta Carbonara today using three jumbo eggs, frozen peas, Italian parsley, Pancetta, shallots, Philadelphia Cream Cheese Ronzoni Brand Thin Spaghetti. Directions call for 9-11 minutes cooking time, depending on how you like your pasta.....Yes I know this is not a traditional recipe,,,but I did not have enough Parmigiano Reggiano in the house....and I needed to use up the items left over from the holidays.

      Boiled the water....added the pasta....returned to boil .....turned off stove, a quick stir of the pasta and covered for 10 minutes......removed pasta without any sticking and added it to the mixture....tossed and served perfectly. There was still enough heat to cook the egg and coat the pasta....this was done about 3:00 PM and it's now midnight with no ill effects....from undercooked eggs.

      I will cook my pasta with this method from now on...I am a convert.

      I started

      1. re: fourunder
        krisrishere RE: fourunder Jan 2, 2009 06:38 AM

        That's great! I will try it out this weekend! Thank you.

    2. n
      nemo RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 10:00 AM

      Greygarious: I remember that technique from years ago, and while I used to employ it, I can't remember why I stopped. It may warrant a revisit.

      Certainly, at the very least, you can multitask the water. I've seen veggies thrown in to the pot with the pasta, i.e., broccoli or green beans for a pasta dish. But I start my eggs in cold water, bring to boil, turn off, time. Maybe you could do the eggs first, take out, use the same water, bring to a second boil, salt, add pasta, time. You'd at least have a head start on the water being close to a boil.

      16 Replies
      1. re: nemo
        greygarious RE: nemo Dec 30, 2008 02:39 PM

        Nemo, I do HB eggs the same way - so all this would mean is adding the pasta to the pot once it's boiling, and since it only takes a moment to return to a boil, the eggs and pasta would be sitting together with the burner off for almost the same amount of time. Usually the eggs need a few minutes longer - instead of pouring off the water I'd scoop the pasta out with a spider or a spaghetti tong. Supposedly adding salt to the water for HB eggs means if an egg cracks it will seal shut quickly rather than trailiing a lot of white, so that part also dovetails nicely with cooking pasta.

        GHG, I've done eggs and then returned the water to a boil after removing them, then cooked pasta or other things, like soup stock, in that water and never detected any off odors or tastes.

        1. re: greygarious
          goodhealthgourmet RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 04:56 PM

          every single time i make hard-cooked eggs (and i make them quite frequently) i notice a residual odor that clings to the pot after i dump out the water...and it's not a scent i'd like to have mingling with any other food. then again, i have a sense of smell like a bloodhound, so i detect even the faintest odors that most people would never notice.

          it's wonderful for the palate, but can also be a nuisance in certain situations - like at the gym ;)

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
            Caroline1 RE: goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 04:39 AM

            By any chance do you use an aluminum pan? (Somehow I seriously doubt that!) I boil eggs in stainless steel lined copper and haven't noticed any residual odor, and I have a nose from hell! However, when I cool my eggs I always do it by putting the pan in the sink and running cold water to displace the hot, then adding ice. Maybe I'm washing all of the odor away?

            As for the original question of whether pasta cooks in less than boiling temperature water, yes, it does. And it's an effective means of preventing boil-over in a full pot. But you cannot use the cooking time on a past package, but have to rely on the traditional tasting method of biting the pasta with your teeth..

            1. re: Caroline1
              goodhealthgourmet RE: Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 10:40 AM

              Caroline, maybe you are washing it away! i typically drain the eggs off in a strainer and then transfer them immediately to an ice bath that i've already prepared. the cooling time gives me a chance to tackle the pot with a soapy sponge and hot water ASAP, because i can't stand the smell!

              oh, and i've used uncoated stainless and coated non-stick pots. doesn't make a difference - they all stink.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                Caroline1 RE: goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 10:56 AM

                LOL! So now I'm wondering if there is an odor in this world I'm not overly aware of? YAY! Either that, or how old did you say your eggs are when you boil them? Aging eggs is supposed to make them easier to peel. '-)

                1. re: Caroline1
                  goodhealthgourmet RE: Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 11:14 AM

                  i do usually reserve older eggs for hard-cooking to make the peeling easier...but i don't always remember to stock up in advance to let them "age" so occasionally i have to use really fresh ones. those reek too :)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                    hotoynoodle RE: goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 12:24 PM

                    i have a very sensitive sense of smell also and cannot tolerate commercial eggs for this reason. organic free-range eggs don't have that same odor.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      Caroline1 RE: hotoynoodle Dec 31, 2008 12:50 PM

                      hmmm... Because of allergies, I have to restrict my eggs to organic free range. Could that be why I'm not aware of an odor? But as GHG says, I probably wash it away with my cold water displacement and ice bath.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                        goodhealthgourmet RE: hotoynoodle Dec 31, 2008 12:51 PM

                        i only use organic eggs, and they still stink!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          HaagenDazs RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 7, 2009 08:21 AM

                          Organic vs not has 110% zero effect on whether or not eggs will have a smell. I think we've lost the subject here. It was never explicitly stated, but I think the concern was the fact that if you cooked eggs and pasta in the same pot, would it negatively affect the pasta flavor.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                f
                FriedClamFanatic RE: goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 10:25 AM

                try rubbing the pot with lemon and then re-wash

                1. re: FriedClamFanatic
                  goodhealthgourmet RE: FriedClamFanatic Dec 31, 2008 10:36 AM

                  oh, removing the odor after i'm finished isn't the issue - a thorough washing takes care of it. my point was that i wouldn't want that odor to cling to any other foods, were i to cook something in the pot along with the eggs, or re-use the water to boil something after.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  Scargod RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 4, 2009 07:58 AM

                  Could you not cook the eggs in a bag and eliminate the chance of smell or flavor getting out?

                  1. re: Scargod
                    goodhealthgourmet RE: Scargod Jan 4, 2009 05:37 PM

                    that's a solution...but honestly i'm so used to it now, it's par for the course - i just don't breathe through my nose until i'm finished washing the pot ;) seriously though, i'd rarely have a need for the water to do double duty - i can't eat pasta, and on the rare occasion that i'm blanching veggies, i'm not usually hard-cooking eggs at the same time.

                    one of these days i may try it just for kicks though.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      chowser RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2009 04:15 AM

                      One pot cooking, blanched vegetables, noodles and deviled eggs well under half an hour. How did the Top Chef contestants not think of this one? ;-)

                      1. re: chowser
                        alkapal RE: chowser Jul 10, 2009 04:29 PM

                        i've cooked boiled eggs and potatoes in the same pot for potato salad. it was ok, but the timing is weird....

            2. goodhealthgourmet RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 10:07 AM

              i'm all for multi-tasking and saving energy, but personally, i wouldn't re-use water from cooking eggs, or cook anything else in the pot with them...unless you want the musty odor of eggshells (or possibly sulfur) in your food.

              1. Caralien RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 10:31 AM

                I make my rice in a similar fashion--cold water to 1 pinkie nail above top of rice, bring to boil, cover, remove from stove, and let sit 20 minutes. Works every time with no burnt rice on the bottom (you must, however, use a well-fitted lid or a liner, ie paper towel if your lid isn't fitted).

                While I've done this with pasta, it's usually only for stuffed, dried pasta for the kids. Or for a fast personal snack when I want gooey, over-cooked pasta (which I would never serve to guests).

                It's harder to cook to al dente with this method. To prevent boil-over, have you tried using a cast-iron pan (larger than the bottom of your pasta pot) underneath? It will provide for even heating which can prevent boil over.

                1. chowser RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 03:33 PM

                  Okay, I admit I was a skeptic but decided to try this tonight. It worked perfectly. No sticky noodles, al dente. I heard it almost boil over so I lifted the pot a second until it stopped and then put it back on the burner w/ residual heat. With boiled eggs, though, I remove the pan from the burner altogether once it comes to a boil and I do a soft boil so I couldn't do eggs at the same time. Isn't this the idea of the Pasta Express? I remember seeing an infomercial on it.

                  http://www.pastaexpress.tv/

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: chowser
                    greygarious RE: chowser Dec 30, 2008 03:46 PM

                    What shape of pasta did you try?

                    1. re: greygarious
                      chowser RE: greygarious Dec 30, 2008 04:06 PM

                      Rotini, also, whole wheat which I find tends to stick more. But, it wasn't at all sticky so I believe it would work for all shapes.

                    2. re: chowser
                      BamiaWruz RE: chowser Jan 7, 2009 07:51 AM

                      I was going to buy the pasta express when it was on clearance at a store for $2 but it looked so CHEAP and flimsy like it would totally fall apart. Plus the sales lady was skeptical about it working too.. the reviews on it were terrible. Wouldn't recommend it.

                      I need to try this method though, sounds interesting.

                      1. re: BamiaWruz
                        b
                        bnemes3343 RE: BamiaWruz Jan 7, 2009 08:03 AM

                        The pasta express is an abomination and goes against pretty much every rec on how to properly cook pasta (i.e. lots of water). turning off the heat and covering is definitely different. The pasta will just take a little longer to cook

                      2. re: chowser
                        Scargod RE: chowser Jan 7, 2009 08:12 AM

                        What happpened to the "Fasta Pasta" posts? I mean, just because I posted a picture of a whip!
                        http://www.fastapastacooker.com/ Does this thing work?

                        1. re: Scargod
                          BamiaWruz RE: Scargod Jan 7, 2009 08:16 AM

                          Oh this one goes in the microwave.. never tried it. I still make my pasta in the microwave, it turns out great.. just need a microwave safe bowl, a lot of water and then you put the pasta in with salt and let it microwave.

                      3. b
                        bnemes3343 RE: greygarious Dec 31, 2008 04:46 AM

                        Interesting. I'm making rigatoni for the family tomorrow night and am tempted to try this. I would imagine that if you cover the pot once you turn off the burner, the temp of the water wouldn't fall that much in the 10 - 12 minutes it takes to cook. In fact, if I try this I will take the temp of the water at the end and report how much it has fallen. I imagine it would be difficult for me not to want to give it a stir once or twice though during the cooking.

                        1. thew RE: greygarious Dec 31, 2008 04:48 AM

                          if one uses enough water clumping, sticking, and boiling over ought not be issues in the 1st place

                          1. ipsedixit RE: greygarious Dec 31, 2008 08:02 AM

                            I do almost the opposite.

                            I bring the water to a boil.

                            Add pasta.

                            Leave pot uncovered and bring to a boil again.

                            Add a cup of cold water.

                            Leave pot uncovered and bring to another boil.

                            Remove pasta.

                            Eat.

                            Enjoy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              Scargod RE: ipsedixit Jan 4, 2009 07:55 AM

                              Ah but you've used more energy! Please explain why the adding of cold water? Why not just continue to cook for a little longer?

                            2. Funwithfood RE: greygarious Dec 31, 2008 09:04 AM

                              I start with a boil, then simmer. It allows me to do the other dinner prep--and I adjust the heat depending on how behind I am with the rest of the meal!

                              (I think restaurants par-cook their spaghetti, then drop it into hot water to serve.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Funwithfood
                                greygarious RE: Funwithfood Dec 31, 2008 09:52 AM

                                Clearly they do, and it irks me that at so many places if you don't specifically request well-drained, you get pasta in soup rather than sauce....it should be obvious that it shouldn't be plated without a few seconds to drain first.

                              2. h
                                HLing RE: greygarious Dec 31, 2008 07:25 PM

                                I'm with your friend in cooking pasta (and maybe in being"not a good cook"). Depending on the type of pasta, covering it may not be necessary. It's nice to be able to use a strainer to scoop out the pasta that hasn't been drained and cooled once already.

                                I like to use the water for more than one purpose, but usually not for eggs (though I cook my soft-boiled eggs in the same way). But I do tend to use the water first to blanch beet greens, spinach, carrots...what have you, and then after those veggies come out, in goes the pasta.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: HLing
                                  BamiaWruz RE: HLing Jan 7, 2009 07:53 AM

                                  Same here with the veg, it's a great way to multi-task.

                                2. greygarious RE: greygarious Jan 2, 2009 06:45 AM

                                  Last night I made a pount of celentani (corkscrew-shaped) using only a 3-quart pot. The package said 6 minutes. I let it sit in the hot water for 9-10 minutes once I turned off the electric burner. At that point, the water level was well below the top of the pasta, but each piece was uniformly cooked, with no clumping. After draining I rinsed the pasta in cold water to prevent further cooking. Perfect results, despite the smaller amount of cooking water.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: greygarious
                                    thew RE: greygarious Jan 2, 2009 07:13 AM

                                    rinsing pasta is really onyl good if you are going to make a baked pasta, or serving it w/ no sauce. the starch you rinse off aids in sauce sticking to the pasta

                                    1. re: thew
                                      greygarious RE: thew Jan 2, 2009 07:53 AM

                                      In this case I'd left the pasta in the water longer than I'd intended to, so I wanted to cool it down pronto. Also, because there was so little unabsorbed water left in the pot - probably only a quart - it was quite pasty and opaque, and I wanted to get rid of it since I was going to refrigerate the unsauced pasta which I won't be using till later today. I think it would have caused the pasta to clump badly when chilled plain. However, if I had planned to use it right away, with a thinnish sauce, that probably would have been a very good thing....I will keep it in mind to use the smaller amount of boiling water when my goal is to maximize the sauce's ability to adhere to the pasta.

                                  2. Peg RE: greygarious Jan 4, 2009 11:21 AM

                                    Eggs can have salmonella on the shells, which does not permeate the egg so they are OK to eat - but the water they are boiled in should not be used for anything else.
                                    Or that's what I've heard, anyway.

                                    I cook pasta by bringing to the boil and turning off - but it only works with reasonably thin pasta. For thicker pastas I am adding a sauce too, I drain the undercooked pasta, add the sauce with a little extra water, bring to the boil, stir, turn off and cover. After a few minutes the pasta has finished cooking and has soaked up a lot of the sauce (I don't like a lot of runny sauce on my pasta).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Peg
                                      Sooeygun RE: Peg Jan 7, 2009 06:53 AM

                                      Except water boils at 212F (simmers around 190F) and that is well above the temperature to kill any salmonella on the shell.

                                    2. n
                                      neverlate RE: greygarious Jan 6, 2009 09:46 AM

                                      I start my pasta in cold water, put a lid on so it comes to a boil faster, stir and check a couple of times during the process, turn heat down once it's boiling, simmer for a while, and leave in pot with lid on. I like to take some out with a slotted spoon at the al dente stage, and let the rest sit a bit longer. Sometimes I forget to get it out at the right time, but it's never mushy.

                                      1. goodhealthgourmet RE: greygarious Jan 6, 2009 07:30 PM

                                        Russ Parsons has a piece in this week's LA Times food section about the weeknight convenience of dried pasta, and he cooks his broccoli & pasta together in the water...

                                        http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                          Caroline1 RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 6, 2009 08:25 PM

                                          hmmm... For me, broccoli has turned into the "repeat food," but I am thinking maybe next time I'm winging it with a pasta dish, why not drop a few cloves of garlic in the pot to give the pasta some extra flavor? Past boiled in garlic water, then served dressed with evoo or butter and some pecorino curls might be pretty good.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                            chowser RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 7, 2009 05:11 AM

                                            I've always done that, because I'm too lazy to wash more pots. Why don't people cook pasta in stock? It might waste stock but could make good pasta.

                                            1. re: chowser
                                              BamiaWruz RE: chowser Jan 7, 2009 07:57 AM

                                              SO's mother does that, pasta and ravioli.

                                              1. re: chowser
                                                alkapal RE: chowser Jul 10, 2009 04:33 PM

                                                i've cooked perciatelli in the water in which i'd just boiled shrimp. it was very good.

                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                Scargod RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 7, 2009 06:06 AM

                                                As chowser and Caroline have suggested, I have put a little "Better Than Bouillon" and toasted garlic granules in my water, along with the salt and olive oil.
                                                Using a sachet, you could add stems from cilantro, tough artichoke leaves and stems, old bones, a hot pepper, etc.
                                                I'm thinking about getting this: http://www.amazon.com/Jumbo-Spice-Bal...

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                  k
                                                  Kagey RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 7, 2009 06:39 AM

                                                  I cook broccoli and cauliflower in the pasta water before I cook the pasta, just use a slotted spoon to remove it. I wouldn't do them at the same time because I'd think that would overcook the vegetables.

                                                  Then cook the pasta and saute the broccoli and cauliflower in oil with garlic and chili. Add the pasta when it's done, toss and sprinkle with cheese. Very easy and fast weeknight dinner right there.

                                                2. thew RE: greygarious Jan 7, 2009 07:57 AM

                                                  i'm still not sure what the advantage is here over boiling one's pasta

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    chowser RE: thew Jan 7, 2009 08:50 AM

                                                    energy savings

                                                    1. re: chowser
                                                      Jay F RE: chowser Jun 4, 2011 03:10 AM

                                                      How much do you save?

                                                      1. re: Jay F
                                                        greygarious RE: Jay F Jun 4, 2011 09:37 AM

                                                        Thew and Jay F: I save water, electricity, and my own elbow grease. For me, it is not so much the small decrease in my utility bills, though I do subscribe to the "penny saved, penny earned" credo. I would rather not haul my 8qt pasta pot from the closet, overheat and steam up my kitchen (unless it's winter), or wrestle with filling and then washing it in my somewhat shallow kitchen sink. I would rather not have to scrub the inevitable burnt foam from boilovers off my cooktop if I use a 4 or 6-qt pot. I also think that small efforts to save natural resources have cumulative value in environmental conservation, and I don't like to see avoidable waste.

                                                  2. s
                                                    Sherri RE: greygarious Jan 7, 2009 08:22 AM

                                                    For many years, I cooked on a small sailboat. The last thing anyone on a moving/rocking boat wants is boiling water splashing around and we're very careful with our limited fuel supply. Pasta and rice were always cooked this way (bring water to a boil, add pasta/rice, cover and wait). I had a gimbeled stove and tied down the covered pasta pot with a bungee cord. It worked perfectly - no burns and great pasta. A bluewater sailor shared this method with me and I never looked back.

                                                    Disclosure: for some bizarre reason, I never transferred this method to the home stove??????? and will set about to remedy that ASAP.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Sherri
                                                      x
                                                      xiaobao12 RE: Sherri Jun 3, 2011 07:02 PM

                                                      Nice story Sherri.

                                                      I am ready to try this method this weekend with 4 pounds of thin spaghetti. I hope it works although I am nervous about how much longer it will take. (I usually put the timer on for one minute less than the package directions. After draining, with the extra minute, I mix in the sauce and put the lid on). I guess it will depend on the pasta : water ratio.

                                                      Somebody mentioned that the pasta doesn't get cooked al dente - I don't quite understand that comment?

                                                      1. re: xiaobao12
                                                        greygarious RE: xiaobao12 Jun 3, 2011 08:45 PM

                                                        It gets cooked al dente if you don't let it sit too long a time. I have only done it with regular thickness spaghetti, which takes about 5 minutes longer than the label directions. Try 3 minutes longer, then just fish out a strand and test it. Put the cover back on and wait some more if it's not ready.

                                                    2. greygarious RE: greygarious Jun 25, 2014 01:56 PM

                                                      I am bringing up this topic again after seeing Sur la Table's Joel Gamoran on Katie Couric's show yesterday. (Disclaimer: the perk plethora drives me nuts but my hands were busy so I didn't change channels.)

                                                      He recommended soaking regular spaghetti in cold water in a 9x13 pan for 90 minutes (longer for shaped pasta though he didn't mention how long). Then without cooking it, put it into a pot of simmering, low to medium thickness tomato sauce. He said to stir it for a few minutes, until it is the desired tenderness. Obviously this would not work with either a thick ragu or minimal topping like a garlic and anchovy saute, unless you added hot water and cooked until it evaporates, but I intend to experiment now that it's hot out and I want to minimize the time my stove is on.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                        alkapal RE: greygarious Jun 26, 2014 10:23 AM

                                                        seems rather fussy. there are easier formulas for the "one pot pasta meals" and they work. http://www.marthastewart.com/978784/o...

                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                          greygarious RE: alkapal Jun 26, 2014 03:14 PM

                                                          It depends on what your priorities are. In summer, I'd prefer having to think ahead enough for the cold water soak than keeping tabs on the pot while several cups of water boils away, steaming up my kitchen. Though in summer I would probably not be slow-simmering a homemade sauce. I'd be reheating sauce made and frozen in cooler weather, and preferably in the microwave. It behooves me to play around with cold-soaking, then nuking.

                                                        2. re: greygarious
                                                          greygarious RE: greygarious Jun 29, 2014 03:07 PM

                                                          Success! I soaked 8oz dry spaghetti in about a quart of water, in a 7x11 baking pan, for a little over 1.5 hours. It was bendy but not tender. I dumped the water and strands into a saucier, covered, brought to a boil, then took it off the heat and steeped 5 minutes before draining. I did this because the topping I planned wasn't liquid enough to cook the pasta in the sauce. This certainly took less stove time and generated less kitchen heat than even the method outlined in my OP.

                                                        3. w
                                                          Westminstress RE: greygarious Jul 3, 2014 11:18 AM

                                                          Thank you to whoever revived this thread recently. I was skeptical of this method but last night was hot, so I tried it. It worked perfectly. I hate having to heat up the kitchen unnecessarily in summer, so I will be using this pasta-cooking method all summer long. Maybe into the winter too!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Westminstress
                                                            greygarious RE: Westminstress Jul 3, 2014 11:23 AM

                                                            That would be me, the OP, and if you did not read through the whole thing, check the 6/25 comment a few posts upthread. Presoaking the pasta allows for even less kitchen heat.

                                                            1. re: greygarious
                                                              w
                                                              Westminstress RE: greygarious Jul 3, 2014 11:58 AM

                                                              Yeah, that was interesting but I don't have 1.5 hours to presoak my pasta most of the time. Happy to cut my water boiling time in half though!

                                                            2. re: Westminstress
                                                              w
                                                              willownt RE: Westminstress Jul 5, 2014 06:11 PM

                                                              I remember hearing this recommended a few years ago by Kate Heyhoe on The Splendid Table:

                                                              http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/...

                                                            3. k
                                                              kseiverd RE: greygarious Jul 3, 2014 12:00 PM

                                                              Saw this on "Ciao Italia" on PBS. Works fine. I just add pasta to SALTED boiling water, give long stuff enough time to wilt down into water, give a swish and cover.

                                                              1. al b. darned RE: greygarious Jul 3, 2014 01:24 PM

                                                                Back in the "good old days" (a.k.a. the 1960s) long before anyone heard of "al dente" my Mom used this method, particularly when cooking elbow macaroni.

                                                                Back in those days, we lived out in the country and only had one car in the family. If Mom was going to need the car that day she would take Dad to work in the morning and then go pick him up in the afternoon.

                                                                It was about a 20 minute round-trip to retrieve the Male Parental Unit. Before going to pick him up. Just before leaving, Mom would boil the water for pasta, add the elbows, cover the pot, and turn it off. When she got back she would drain the pasta and finish the meal prep. One of our favorites was an (American-style) goulash, made with browned hamburger, tomatoes and tomato sauce, onions and green peppers, and sometimes mushrooms.

                                                                I don't recall her doing that for regular spaghetti, but she might have.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: al b. darned
                                                                  greygarious RE: al b. darned Jul 3, 2014 03:48 PM

                                                                  IME, that would have been a few minutes too long for regular spaghetti but the shaped pastas definitely take longer.

                                                                2. w
                                                                  Westminstress RE: greygarious Jul 3, 2014 07:53 PM

                                                                  I tried this method again tonight, this time with 100% buckwheat soba noodles. This turned out to be a vastly superior method of cooking soba noodles. For once they didn't fall apart! They were perfect. I think the gentle cooking really helped produce a better noodle. This is really one of the best tips I've come across recently!

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Westminstress
                                                                    p
                                                                    Puffin3 RE: Westminstress Jul 4, 2014 06:21 AM

                                                                    Classic pasta cooking method: Bring covered pot with lots of water to the boil.
                                                                    Remove lid. Toss in some Kosher salt. Carefully add the pasta. The water will stop boiling. Keep the burner on high until the water just starts to come up to the boil. Turn down heat until the water is at a hard simmer. Leave the lid off. Gently stir the pasta to make sure it's not stuck together. Check for el dente doneness after a few minutes.
                                                                    Then drain reserving a couple of cups of the water to adjust the sauce, if sauce is being used.
                                                                    Do not rinse the pasta.
                                                                    If sauce is being used add the pasta to the pan the sauce is being cooked in. Gently incorporate the sauce and pasta. The pasta should be almost 'sticky' with the sauce.
                                                                    No extra sauce floating in the bottom of the pan. Serve hot on hot plate.
                                                                    The problem with the 'cover the pot and turn off the heat' is the risk that the pasta will absorb too much water and not be el dente. It will be over cooked mush sitting in a bath of starchy water. You need the water to be 'moving' around each piece of pasta to 'wash off' the excess starch. You can't achieve this with still water.

                                                                    1. re: Puffin3
                                                                      w
                                                                      Westminstress RE: Puffin3 Jul 4, 2014 09:19 AM

                                                                      Thanks for your thoughts, but the purpose of this thread is to demonstrate that what you are saying, which is the received wisdom for pasta cooking, is in fact incorrect. It is not necessary to maintain the water at a simmer or boil to achieve perfectly cooked pasta. The method as described in the OP works perfectly and the pasta is not over cooked and mushy if you remove it from the water at the appropriate time. It is not excessively starchy either. Try it, you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.

                                                                      1. re: Westminstress
                                                                        b
                                                                        bob96 RE: Westminstress Jul 4, 2014 04:26 PM

                                                                        Uh, no. The point of this thread is to suggest alternate ways of properly cooking pasta. Puffin3's method is correct, and one that I and many millions use with ease and success, even if it there may be other correct ways. I'm still completely unconvinced that a simple boil (you do not need an 8qt pot--who even has one?), reasonably tended to, is no onerous or wrong headed. There are many ways to conserve energy and resources (like never cooking that simple sals di pomodoro for more than 25 minutes, or even less), but this ritual seems to me a needless expenditure of time and attention better spent elsewhere.

                                                                        1. re: bob96
                                                                          w
                                                                          Westminstress RE: bob96 Jul 4, 2014 07:45 PM

                                                                          Well, as I think I said before, so after this post I will stop commenting, heating up the kitchen is a big issue for me in the summer. Hot climate and no A/C. So the ability to save 10 minutes of high heat, boiling water and steam actually does make a difference to me. I had previously always used puffin3's method and was happy to learn this works just as well and keeps my kitchen a few degrees cooler.

                                                                      2. re: Puffin3
                                                                        greygarious RE: Puffin3 Jul 4, 2014 10:57 AM

                                                                        There's no higher risk of a mushy result than there is if you err on timing while cooking it over active heat. Nobody's forcing you to change your method, but why dismiss something you haven't tried, but which others have demonstrated to work just as well? Oh, and "al dente", not "el dente".

                                                                        1. re: greygarious
                                                                          x
                                                                          xiaobao12 RE: greygarious Jul 4, 2014 12:49 PM

                                                                          Hi greygarious, cannot wait to try this soon. Did you salt the soaking water?

                                                                          1. re: xiaobao12
                                                                            greygarious RE: xiaobao12 Jul 4, 2014 01:06 PM

                                                                            I did not, because I use very little salt and would not have salted regardless of method of cooking the pasta. The way they did it on TV, it finished cooking in hot sauce so would absorb salt and other flavors from that. When I did it, I heated up the soaking water at the end of the 90 minute soak, and could have added salt at that point. Using cold water to soak would mean you'd have to do a lot of shaking to dissolve the salt first, or go to the trouble of dissolving it in a small amount of hot water before adding enough cold water to cover the dry pasta. On a slight tangent, when CI and ATK promote brining various meats, they NEVER mention how much effort it takes to dissolve the salt. You just see them stir a few times, as if that's enough.

                                                                            1. re: xiaobao12
                                                                              w
                                                                              Westminstress RE: xiaobao12 Jul 4, 2014 07:47 PM

                                                                              Not gregarious here but I always salt the pasta cooking water generously and did so when I used the no-boil method.

                                                                              1. re: Westminstress
                                                                                x
                                                                                xiaobao12 RE: Westminstress Jul 5, 2014 06:31 AM

                                                                                Thanks westminstress

                                                                            2. re: greygarious
                                                                              p
                                                                              Puffin3 RE: greygarious Jul 5, 2014 05:34 AM

                                                                              Once again thanks for the spelling lesson pal.
                                                                              If you really want to prevent all that extra heat created by hard simmering pasta in the kitchen tie the pot to your exhaust manifold. By the time you get home from work your pasta will be perfectly cooked.
                                                                              You're welcome.

                                                                        2. r
                                                                          RelishPDX RE: greygarious Jul 4, 2014 06:50 PM

                                                                          I wondered where I'd picked this up, I'd failed to mark the thread.

                                                                          Not tried the cold method described in later posts, but I have to say this method totally changed the way I cook pasta.

                                                                          I'd never ever been able to boil spaghetti right. It was always mushy on the outside by the time it was al dente in the center. Turning off the heat was the trick. I had to bring the water back up to a boil at the end for a few minutes, because it would be nearing lukewarm by the time it was done (close to 20 mins.), but at least I'm free from having to use vermicelli forever now. Sometimes I've wanted a thicker noodle, plus vermicelli isn't always available in every store in the brands I prefer.

                                                                          Thanks for posting this method!

                                                                          Show Hidden Posts