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Al dente or soft

After going to Italy and having pasta. I find myself really enjoying what they call al dente.. I have found that most cooking times labeled on the box were overdone by a couple minutes for dry pasta. I'll toss the pasta when cooked with a little of the water into a pan with some sauce and cook over high heat for a minute. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Most people I know like their pasta cooked very soft and then swimming in sauce. Do you like your pasta undercooked or overcooked?

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  1. Al dente, per favore. Unless it's baked in a casserole.

    1. Nobody should ever rely on box labels for pasta cooking times. You need to subtract several minutes from the recommendations then test for doneness every couple of minutes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret

        Except on certain Italian pastas where if you follow the directions the pasta will be inedibly hard eg Spiga di Puglia says 5 min for spaghettini #2 which results in a light yellow raw centre -- needs 7 min for Mr Dente to make an appearance :-).

      2. I prefer al dente for sure, probably a bit more than some may be used to. I like the bite and the fact that when I stab some penne, it doesn't slide off the tines of the fork.

        1. Al dente. I'm very selective with the type of dry pasta I purchase and minute by minute I test it.
          Soft makes me gag.

          2 Replies
          1. re: latindancer

            A sidenote...

            I'm equally selective when it comes to the olive oil I'll use on the pasta.

            1. re: latindancer

              I am also selective. The olive oil industry has seen a increase of olive oils claiming to be extra virgin, when actually they are not. I live in California, So I have been using Corto wich has been certified by the olive oil board.

          2. I don't like it fully soft, gloppy, but prefer a little past al dente.

            I do like super soft elbows when I do baked macaroni, though, or baked ziti. Anything where the pasta is only a component, rather than the star.

            1. Firm but not hard is always good.

                1. Al dente. Which is very different from undercooked.

                  1. Just right. a bit of a bite, but NOT soft!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: wyogal

                      It seems the Al dente's have it and I concur!!

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        I think I went to school with him! Yea...Al Dente...I remember him.
                        In all seriousnsess, tho, I now do what Lidia recommends...take it out just a bit undercooked, then finish it to the desired level of done-ness IN the sauce you're making.

                    2. Al dente. As a sidenote, it's been in the news lately that al dente pasta has a lower glycemic index than slimy pasta.

                      1. I must admit, I have never met anyone who prefers pasta soft....
                        I think soft pasta is a very Americanized way to prepare pasta, but I think these dayspeople are begining to see the light!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: NellyNel

                          I don't think necessarily Americanized--just not Italian. Try going to Argentina, a country with a HUGE Italian influence. I think you'll find their spaghetti, and other noodles, even softer than in the US. I'd say pretty much anywhere in South America, outside of fine Italian dining, the noodles are going to be really soft. At least in the US, people ARE being exposed to how things are done in Italy--or the country of origin of a dish. I think much more than in most other parts of the world.

                        2. I understand that this was not the point of your post, but, there are possible health benefits to having your pasta/noodles cooked "al dente".

                          Apparently, we digest "al dente" noodles more slowly and our blood sugar does not spike as much when noodles are cooked "al dente". When they are cooked "all the way through" our blood sugar has a shorter and higher "spike".

                          Anyway, food for thought.


                          Woops, looks like Sandy beat me to it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: DougRisk

                            Poking the Hound here.

                            As there isn't a "competing" foodie term for other kinds of pasta preparation beyond al dente, I wonder what Ch poster would say Anything other than "the correct way."

                            How would good soft pasta be described?

                            Rohirette does nicely:
                            >>I don't like it fully soft, gloppy, but prefer a little past al dente.
                            >>I do like super soft elbows when I do baked macaroni, though, or baked ziti.
                            >>Anything where the pasta is only a component, rather than the star.

                            Can anyone else give a good description of soft pasta?

                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                              When chewing is unnecessary because it can be mashed between the tongue and the roof of one's mouth. I will admit that in the Midwest where and when I grew up, "al dente" would have been considered an fancy Italian term meaning "noodles ain't done yet". The first time I was served ravioli that I had to chew - and I was an adult by then - I felt like sending them back to finish cooking. That was in fact the first ravioli I'd had NOT out of a can …

                          2. Like everybody says. To get your pasta done the way you like it, neither undercooked nor overcooked, don't watch the clock, taste-test the pasta.

                            1. I prefer al dente but now not sure if it is Italian al dente. I was watching Masterchef Australia in Italy and they were commenting that Italian's prefer it al dente (not the same as Australia). Do Australian restaurants usually serve it soft? Is Italian al dente firmer than Canada/US al dente?

                              1. I think the only time I do not want al dente pasta is in Mac N Cheese.

                                Even with lasagna, I prefer the pasta to have at least a bit of bite or chew to it.

                                1. I like my pasta *fully cooked*
                                  Not mushy (overcooked) like canned ravioli or speghetti.
                                  But certainly not al dente.

                                  I don't think I have EVER timed my pasta and only once tried to throw it against a wall.
                                  Most people I know like their pasta al dente.

                                  I have never ordered pasta in a restaurant. I think: "pasta! That I can cook at home and it's one of the cheapest foods going. If I'm forking out for a meal, I prefer to at least get my money's worth."
                                  Now this might be different if I knew I was at a place where they made their OWN fresh pasta.

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      After I discovered that I actually like good dried pasta better than fresh (except for egg noodles - different species), I pretty much retired the Atlas. I'm not even sure where the drying rack is anymore …

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        Mine's in some kitchen cupboard.... sigh. If it weren't such a PITA, I'd be making ravioli again.

                                        But yeah, good dry pasta is so versatile, and *so* much less work!

                                  1. Definitely al dente. And if you buy quality pasta (Barilla is our favorite), you'll find that the cooking directions will be for al dente, with a notation that if you like "more tender" pasta, to cook a minute or two more. So it's up to you.

                                    I also undercook pasta by a minute under al dente timing if I'm going to be using that pasta in a baked pasta dish, since it will continue cooking in the oven.

                                    1. I like my pasta fully cooked. Not over or under. I could be wrong but I suspect the 'al dente,' thing started as a method of fully cooking pasta by taking it off the heat as al dente so that the residual heat of the pasta itself would bring it being fully cooked and avoid overcooking. Somewhere down the line al dente became this 'standard,' as if anything but 'pasta with a bit of bite,' is the only correct doneness and everything else is 'wrong.' Everyone is entitled to their preference of course but what bugs me is that implication that al dente is the correct way. I don't like even the tiniest bit of rawness in my pasta, rice etc.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Jjjr

                                        Al Dente IS done all the way through if it is done right. There is no core of rawness if cooked well. Not easy to do, IMO.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          That sounds good to me. It's just one of those terms that gets thrown around loosely. I've heard it described as meaning 'slightly underdone,' countless times on FN. I don't want my pasta even remotely underdone.

                                          1. re: Jjjr

                                            I think al dente literally means to the teeth, which I like because it suggests there is a wee bit of "bite" in the pasta still. Luckily I have my starch man in the kitchen. The SO would be the first to say he is not fond of cooking but somehow he was born with the uncanny ability to know exactly when rice, pasta and other starches are ready, and he doesn't mind cooking them. Drives me nuts but I love it. I rarely cook starches when he isn't around!