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Pasta -- "Cooking Instructions" from "Italian Cooking" by Dorothy Daly
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: Any time & special times
Contributed by: Courtesy of www.archive.org

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Pasta, including vermicelli, spaghetti, pastina etc.


Cooking Procedures

Provided one remembers a few simple rules, nothing could be much simpler than the cooking of Pasta.

1. See to it that you use a large utensil, a really capacious saucepan in which is an ample quantity of really boiling water ? allow at least a gallon of boiling water per pound of pasta, and to each gallon add a tablespoonful of cooking salt. Before attempting to add the Pasta, see that the water is at a proper boil, and add the Pasta slowly so as not to let the water go off the boil, for once the temperature of the water drops below boiling point you are running the risk of having your Pasta turn into a soft, rubbery mass, instead of the desired separate strands or pieces, depending on which variety of Pasta you are cooking. If you are using the long, uncut Spaghetti or Macaroni, don't spoil the Italian appearance of your finished dish by breaking the Pasta into shorter lengths; don't get alarmed if at first the long ends stick out of your saucepan of water, once the submerged part has been heated through it will soften sufficiently for you to be able to persuade the long ends to follow suit. One reason for the emphasis on using a large enough saucepan is the need to allow for the 'frothing' that takes place when once the Pasta itself reaches boiling point; lower your heat a trifle when this occurs, but not sufficiently to let the water drop below boiling point. From time to time run a fork or spoon around your saucepan to loosen any stray ends of Pasta that may adhere to the bottom or sides of the utensil.

2. Whatever you do, don't fall into the error of over-cooking your Pasta, and where cooking time is concerned, you may have to go through a period of trial and error before you discover the correct cooking time for your own particular taste. The true Italian likes to be able to bite his cooked Pasta: he will tell you it must be 'al dente' (to suit the tooth), but while it must certainly not be soft enough to dissolve in the mouth, it must need only the tenderest of 'bites', such as you might give to ? shall we say ? a piece of Shrove Tuesday pancake. The cooking time will vary with the different varieties and thicknesses o^ Pasta, and it is a fairly safe maxim in the early days of Pasta-cooking to study the instructions given on the package of whichever type you choose, and to cook your Pasta a minute or so less than the time suggested, then fish out a small piece and test it for yourself either by biting through it, or by pressing it between two fingers. A few experimental 'trial runs' will soon give you a guide to your own best cooking times. The following table will be helpful in a broad sense, but your own experience will eventually stand you in better stead than any instructions.


(Approximate only)

Ordinary spaghetti 8 ? 12 minutes

Very thin spaghetti, vermicelli 6 ? 10 minutes

Long macaroni 10 ? 12 minutes

Macaroni shells, wagon wheels etc 8 ? 12 minutes

Broad noodles such as lasagne 6 ? 9 minutes

Medium noodles ? tagliatelle 4 ? 6 minutes

Alphabet macaroni, pastina (the rice-like macaroni used in soup), small stars, etc. 5 ? 7 minutes

Rigatoni or gavatoni (very large macaroni) 10 ? 12 minutes

And remember, the home-made Pasta needs usually no more

than half the length of time to cook in comparison with

the bought varieties.

4. To make sure that the cooked Pasta will have no slimy outer covering, it is an excellent idea to 'blanch' it as soon as it is cooked by removing it from the heat, and before draining it through a colander, adding a cupful of cold water to the boiling mass. Stir rapidly after the addition of cold water, then drain immediately through a colander, and, once drained, piled on a warm dish.

5.Having transferred your Pasta to a warmed dish or bowl, add whatever Sauce you have prepared and serve immediately, handing at the same time a bowl of grated Parmesan cheese, to be added to the taste of the consumer.

How Much Pasta Per Person?

It is difficult to suggest quantities of Pasta per person, for while one pound of pasta might be ample for half a dozen people, there are addicts to whom a personal share of half a pound might not be too much, while others might abstain from tackling more than two ounces. A fairly 'safe' allowance is three ounces per person, plus an added three or four ounces for every sixth person, to allow for that little more an addict might demand.

The following recipes [from "Italian Cooking"] will give you an idea of some of the many ways you can serve this typically Italian food once you have mastered the simple art of preparing your Pasta by its initial cooking in boiling water. These all come under the category of Pasta asciutta (Dry Pasta) to distinguish them from Pasta in Brodo, or Pasta served as an addition and an essential ingredient of certain broths and soups.


In the introduction to the pasta section of "Italian Cooking" Dorothy Daly states: "The Italian term Pasta covers a multitude of various shapes and forms of what we in England tend to lump together in our minds under the heading of Macaroni or Spaghetti. For centuries now Pasta has formed an integral part of the Italian diet, but whether or not it originated in that country is open to question. One theory is that it was among the many curiosities and wonders brought back by the traveller Marco Polo when he returned to Italy during the 13th Century after years of travel in the Orient, and in an account of his travels there is a description of the Chinese making a kind of dough which they cut in strips and dried in the sun, which strips he refers to by the Italian name Lasagne, the name used to this day in Italy for one of the broad, flat ribbon-type Pastas. Earlier than Marco Polo, however, there is a reference to Pasta in Italian literature, in the Life of the Blessed Hermit William, a holy man who lived around the year 1200, which rather discounts the Marco Polo legend. It looks as though we are safe to assume that Macaroni has as good a chance of being native to Italy as Noodles have of being of Chinese origin ; the name given to the kind of Pasta matters less for the purpose of this book than the various ways of cooking the product. A word first of all about the various types of Pasta to be met with in Italy. Starting with the fine string-like vermicelli, too fine to have a bore through its centre, the tubular types come in all widths from the regular and familiar Macaroni and Spaghetti, to the three-inch lengths of Canneloni, three-quarters of an inch in diameter which, after a preliminary cooking in boiling water are stuffed and re-cooked in various ways, and served up with sauce, or with cheese and butter. There are the fancy shapes of Pasta, Shells, Elbows, Cartwheels, Twists, even Alphabet Letters, and there are the various flat types, the narrow Noodles, the broader Tagliarellini, progressing to the broad Lasagne, and there are also the tiny rice-type grains known as Pastina, and small star-shapes used as a garnish for soups. The variety is infinite and the possibilities of cooking the various types into tempting dishes are endless...." These notes are a direct quote from from "Italian Cooking" by Dorothy Daly. It was published by Spring Books in Great Britain. For the complete copyright-free cookbook see www.archive.org. A variety of recipes can also be found on this website.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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