14 Myths About Cooking Pasta

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14 Myths About Cooking Pasta

Read on for the biggest myths about cooking pasta.

Myth: You Should Rinse Pasta.

Truth: Rinsing the pasta isn't necessary unless you're adding it to a cold salad.

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Myth: You Should Add Oil To The Water.

Truth: Adding oil to pasta water will actually make the pasta more slippery and keep the sauce from sticking to it. You should, however, add salt to your pasta as it boils for extra flavor.

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Myth: All Pastas are the Same.

Truth: Most dried pastas in the store are made from wheat flour and water. In Italy, pastas are required by law to be made with durum wheat. There are dried egg pastas which are different from wheat-flour pastas. Cooking one pound of angel hair (capellini) pasta yields a lot more pasta than cooking one pound of spaghetti because angel hair pasta absorbs more water and bulks up.

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Myth: It's All About the Sauce.

Truth: Americans tend to drown their pastas in sauce, believing that if a little bit is good, then a lot will be better. However, in Italy, chefs tend to emphasize the pasta, not the sauce. The sauce enhances the flavor of the noodles and not the other way around.

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Myth: Always Drain Well.

Truth: Don't stress about thoroughly draining the pasta. A little bit of leftover water can actually add to the quality of the sauce.

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Myth: You Can Pair Any Pasta with Any Pasta Sauce.

Truth: Pasta shape and size is crucial to making a dish turn out delicious. Meaty sauces will overwhelm delicate pastas. Heavy sauces are great for thicker pastas like fusili and lighter sauces work with thinner noodles like linguini.

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Myth: Cook Pasta Uncovered.

Truth: Covering the pot makes water boil faster and then once you add the pasta, you can cover it again. The Silver Spoon, one of the most influential Italian cooking books, recommends cooking pasta with the lid on top.

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Myth: Rely on the Package Directions.

Truth: The package directions make for good guidelines, but testing a cooked noodle will always provide you with a better assessment.

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Myth: Using A Colander Is The Best Way To Drain Pasta.

Truth: Pouring the pasta into a colander is fine if you have the strength to lift the heavy pot, but a good old strainer works fine too.

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Myth: Fresh Pasta Is Always Better.

Truth: Many foods are better when fresh like produce and coffee, but dried pasta is totally fine. Fresh pasta is ideal for making lasagna and ravioli, but other varieties work perfectly well with dried pasta.

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Myth: Salting Pasta Water Makes It Boil Faster.

Truth: Kind of, but not really. Adding salt to boiling water increases the boiling point of the water. Increasing the boiling point means that the water will reach a higher temperature and should cook the pasta better. However, to achieve this effect, you'd need to add 230 grams of salt to a liter of water, which would only raise the boiling point by 2 degrees Celsius and that is way more salt than anyone wants in their food! The good news is that adding salt to boiling water does flavor the water, which the food then absorbs. So, salting pasta water does enhance flavor, but not really the boiling process.

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Myth: Pasta is Done When It Sticks to the Wall.

Truth: Pasta is done when it tastes done. Aim for an al dente taste, which means that the pasta is still slightly firm. According to Rachael Ray, the longer pasta cooks, the more gummy its texture gets, so if it sticks to the wall it might be overcooked.

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Myth: Breaking Pasta Will Make It Cook Faster.

Truth: The rate at which pasta cooks depends entirely on the diameter and thickness of the noodle. If you're not cooking with a deep pot though, make sure to fully submerge the pasta.

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Myth: Eating Pasta Makes You Fat.

Truth: It's not technically carbs that make you gain weight, just extra calories, which means you could gain weight eating too many carbs, proteins or fats. Dieticians recommend eating pasta in moderation. Whole wheat pasta contains more fiber and nutrients than white pasta, so it is definitely a more nutritious choice and will increase satiety.

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Pasta is easy, delicious and enjoyed by many cultures, but because of its popularity, there are a number of common misconceptions about the proper way to prepare it. Should you salt the water? Do you need to rinse the noodles after they've cooked?

Check out the slideshow above for the truth behind the 14 biggest myths about cooking pasta.

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