"I did not know that" food facts/techniques

jtara

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Mar 23, 2009
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What did you JUST learn about food, cooking, cooking techniques, that somehow escaped you for ... your entire life until recently?

I JUST learned that you are supposed to dry fresh pasta before you cook it! So THAT'S why it always turns out a soggy mess! Doh!

Decided to give it ONE MORE GO and picked up some fresh pasta from a place in our nearby Little Italy that's been there forever. Figured there MUST be something to it, so...

Nope, soggy, goopy mess!

So, duh, I actually looked it up on the Interwebs.

You are supposed to dry the pasta. They have pasta dryers for this, which you hang the pasta from. I guess drying is NOT just for preservation, but a necessary step.

I innovated with a ventilated cookie sheet, over the sink. (So air can circulate on both sides.) Drying nicely.

I will have al dente' tonight!

It DOES beg the question, though.... what's the point of fresh pasta, then?

Still a mystery to be solved...
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2004
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Neither did I.
Probably overcooking is the issue... it only takes five minutes, not like 13...

You only have to dry it for future use. I hang it up as I cut the pieces so they don't stick together, but it's hanging there maybe 30 minutes tops since I just make enough for the meal at hand. And one only dries certain kinds, I mean you don't dry stuff like raviolis because they wouldn't be pliable to take the pinching shut when filled, in fact you need to divide the dough and keep what you're not working on wrapped or covered anyway to keep it from drying and becoming hard to roll out properly.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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In my experience, fresh pasta cooks exceptionally rapidly - usually in three to five minutes; I've never heard of (and I spend quite a bit of my free time with foodies and their friends) anyone thinking to dry it.

The whole point of fresh pasta is that it is consumed quickly - it doesn't keep terribly well - unlike dried pasta.
 

Zenithal

macrumors G3
Sep 10, 2009
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I make fresh pasta several times a year. You're overcooking it. You let the pasta rest for 4-5 minutes before cooking. Fresh pasta takes a fraction of the time to cook compared to dry pasta. The only brands I'd ever recommend are De Cecco and Garofalo. There's a few other import brands but they're rare to find in most places.

Cheap vs excellent pasta comes down to the machinery materials and the dough recipe and quality.
 

jtara

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Original poster
Mar 23, 2009
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Hmmmm, so I guess I STILL do not know the right way to cook fresh pasta!

I am going to try it dried tonight.

And then I will get some more, and try it cooked for a VERY short time. I found references saying only 60-90 seconds, and that it actually firms-up in that time, before going soft again. Shoulda known there's some actual SCIENCE going on here!

Will I get the al dente' feel that is normal from dried pasta? Or, it's just a different thing?

I have to admit, I normally cook it in a microwave pasta cooker. It actually works great - for dried pasta. You use much less water, and it's designed to take the same time as package directions.

With the short cooking time, of course the microwave hack is not going to work. Too much time to get up to temp (unless bring to boil first) and surely it will stick. It was a mistake to cook the fresh this way, LOL.

I will drop it into boiling water and test it (duh) at 60 and 90 seconds.

----
The only brands I'd ever recommend are De Cecco and Garofalo
For dried pasta, I have De Cecco and DelVerde. Never heard of or seen Garofalo. Maybe not common on U.S. west coast? I buy it at a shop called Mona Lisa, (attached to a restaurant) which I think is run by a Sicilian family and has been there forever. The fresh pasta place is across the street. They mainly sell to restaurants. I've stopped in a few times out of curiosity. I've gotten squid ink pasta that actually turned out OK.
 
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Gutwrench

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Jan 2, 2011
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I just started making homemade pasta and have to agree with the others. I only cook it for 4 minutes. I keep it covered with a slightly moist flour sack towel until I drop it.

If you’re not going to use it right away I rinse in cold water, drizzle with olive oil, and fluff.
 

Gutwrench

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Jan 2, 2011
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I never realized how simple and quick making homemade pasta could be. At least the way I’ve learned. I’ve always been intimidated by it but I can have fresh fettuccine in 25 minutes and 15 minutes of it is letting the dough rest.
 

Zenithal

macrumors G3
Sep 10, 2009
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Wait a minute, I’m still learning to crawl.

Squid ink pasta? Googling.
Octopus? I don't remember.

It's like a 1-2 oz. frozen packet of either one's ink. A little goes a long way. Earthy and briny flavor. I'm surprised you've never heard of it since Bon Apetit used it in a few of their videos... I think. It's either an Italian or Japanese thing. Probably both.

Smoked paprika added to the dough mixture goes really well with slow cooked pork ribs or anything fatty from the animal and chopped up with a nice tomato sauce. Acidity cuts through the richness of the meat while the smoked paprika lends a really nice aroma and flavor to the meat.
 
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niji

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Feb 9, 2003
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great-wines-for-squid-ink-p.jpg
Ooh, I’ve eaten squid ink pasta, but I haven’t yet made it fresh at home. Hmmmmmmm.....
i think squid black ink pasta is the kind of dish that, although not difficult to make, quietly states "i know how to cook".

before making it, i would like to recommend you actually try it made in an italian restaurant, and then, get a japanese friend to make it for you as well.
 
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Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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Hmmmm, so I guess I STILL do not know the right way to cook fresh pasta!

I am going to try it dried tonight.

And then I will get some more, and try it cooked for a VERY short time. I found references saying only 60-90 seconds, and that it actually firms-up in that time, before going soft again. Shoulda known there's some actual SCIENCE going on here!

Will I get the al dente' feel that is normal from dried pasta? Or, it's just a different thing?

I have to admit, I normally cook it in a microwave pasta cooker. It actually works great - for dried pasta. You use much less water, and it's designed to take the same time as package directions.

With the short cooking time, of course the microwave hack is not going to work. Too much time to get up to temp (unless bring to boil first) and surely it will stick. It was a mistake to cook the fresh this way, LOL.

I will drop it into boiling water and test it (duh) at 60 and 90 seconds.

----


For dried pasta, I have De Cecco and DelVerde. Never heard of or seen Garofalo. Maybe not common on U.S. west coast? I buy it at a shop called Mona Lisa, (attached to a restaurant) which I think is run by a Sicilian family and has been there forever. The fresh pasta place is across the street. They mainly sell to restaurants. I've stopped in a few times out of curiosity. I've gotten squid ink pasta that actually turned out OK.
A microwave for pasta? Seriously?

Okay.

Personally, I don't use a microwave - I don't even have one.

Fresh pasta only takes 1-3 min tops.
Exactly; three minutes and it is done. That means you need to have your sauce or whatever you intend to serve with the pasta prepared before you put the pasta on.

Don't forget experimenting with herbs and spices in the dough. You should try squid ink pasta, @Gutwrench.
I've had this, but never prepared it myself; very tasty on a particular day, but in general, I prefer my pasta unadulterated - that means you can be more experimental with the sauce.
 
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Zenithal

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Sep 10, 2009
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I opted to use sliced pork belly in a cream sauce recently. Delicious compared to the traditional stuff. Rendered pork fat, bits of meat, melt in your mouth goodness. Need to make some puttanesca soon so I can use up the remaining anchovies we've got on hand before it goes bad.

Probably experiment with a grilled tuna tahini using some nice tuna from the fish mongers.
 
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Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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I opted to use sliced pork belly in a cream sauce recently. Delicious compared to the traditional stuff. Rendered pork fat, bits of meat, melt in your mouth goodness. Need to make some puttanesca soon so I can use up the remaining anchovies we've got on hand before it goes bad.

Probably experiment with a grilled tuna tahini using some nice tuna from the fish mongers.
Pork belly is delicious done properly; how did you prepare it and what was in your sauce?
 

Zenithal

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Sep 10, 2009
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Pork belly is delicious done properly; how did you prepare it and what was in your sauce?
I bought it from a butcher who had already cured it. I cut it into 1 cm chunks or a bit bigger, and slowly cooked them in butter. The sauce was cream, lemon zest, fresh herbs in a bouquet garni, salt and white pepper. I used something else to emulsify the butter, pork fat and the olive oil I added. I can't remember what it was. I believe I used a splash of dry white wine, too. The lemon zest and bouquet garni add flavor and depth to the pasta, but remove that excessive richness that may linger on the palate. Garnished with freshly shaved pecorino romano and dusted again after plating. The zing from the cheese's sharpness and the depth of flavor from the sheep's milk added to the dish.

We still have a fair amount that I vacuum packed and froze. Should come in useful for future dishes. I have vacuum packed rendered duck, chicken, lamb and turkey fat on hand. Render. Chill. Cut up. Freeze on a tray, then throw it into the bag before vacuum packing it.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
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The Far Horizon
I bought it from a butcher who had already cured it. I cut it into 1 cm chunks or a bit bigger, and slowly cooked them in butter. The sauce was cream, lemon zest, fresh herbs in a bouquet garni, salt and white pepper. I used something else to emulsify the butter, pork fat and the olive oil I added. I can't remember what it was. I believe I used a splash of dry white wine, too. The lemon zest and bouquet garni add flavor and depth to the pasta, but remove that excessive richness that may linger on the palate. Garnished with freshly shaved pecorino romano and dusted again after plating. The zing from the cheese's sharpness and the depth of flavor from the sheep's milk added to the dish.

We still have a fair amount that I vacuum packed and froze. Should come in useful for future dishes. I have vacuum packed rendered duck, chicken, lamb and turkey fat on hand. Render. Chill. Cut up. Freeze on a tray, then throw it into the bag before vacuum packing it.
Now, that does sound (and read) as though it was absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious.

Thanks for sharing.
 

Gutwrench

Contributor
Jan 2, 2011
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i think squid black ink pasta is the kind of dish that, although not difficult to make, quietly states "i know how to cook".

before making it, i would like to recommend you actually try it made in an italian restaurant, and then, get a japanese friend to make it for you as well.
Is it as simple as adding 3T (or so) of squid ink to the egg before kneading? I assuming less salt in the water. Hmmmm....I don’t have much of a life so maybe I’ll run a test batch on a weekend. Maybe we’re actually talk drops not T’s? Haha.
 
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mollyc

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Aug 18, 2016
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Hmmmm, so I guess I STILL do not know the right way to cook fresh pasta!

I am going to try it dried tonight.
...............
I have to admit, I normally cook it in a microwave pasta cooker. It actually works great - for dried pasta. You use much less water, and it's designed to take the same time as package directions.

With the short cooking time, of course the microwave hack is not going to work. Too much time to get up to temp (unless bring to boil first) and surely it will stick. It was a mistake to cook the fresh this way, LOL.

I will drop it into boiling water and test it (duh) at 60 and 90 seconds.
Yeah, I have to agree with ScepticableScribe that the microwave pasta cooker is not your friend here. I do have a microwave. I use it for stuff like reheating leftovers or thawing out chicken breasts partway. I don't actually cook in it.

Did the actually cooking on a stovetop method work for you?
 
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Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
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Yeah, I have to agree with ScepticableScribe that the microwave pasta cooker is not your friend here. I do have a microwave. I use it for stuff like reheating leftovers or thawing out chicken breasts partway. I don't actually cook in it.

Did the actually cooking on a stovetop method work for you?
Yes, I would always cook pasta on a stove top in plenty of salted boiling water, with an added dash of olive oil sometimes; fresh pasta cooks in a matter of minutes - quite literally, three or so.
 

jtara

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Mar 23, 2009
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A microwave for pasta? Seriously?
Seriously.

There are two things I actually COOK in the microwave: dried pasta, and steamed vegetables. A company named LeKue makes specialized microwave cooking dishes. The ones for vegetables come in various sizes and are 100% silicon. There is a little "platform" you place the vegetables on, and you put a tablespoon of water below the platform.

I usually smear a little ghee on the vegs as well...

The pasta cooker is a hard plastic with air-gap insulation and a silicon top for "boil over" protection. The insulation both prevents burns (I use gloves anyway!) and literally "slows the roll". You use cold water, it's designed to cook in the same time as on the box. (And it does.) I just add salt.

Both are very "green" if that matters to you. For steamed vegetables, you use a tablespoon of water. For pasta, you use MUCH less water than on the stove.

----
I did try the fresh pasta on the stove last night, and it turned out "correctly" (al dente'). It was still a short cooking time, even though I'd dried it. So, I've yet to try it truly "fresh", but will the next time - and I assume the science that works for others will work for me.... that it, it hardens initially upon cooking before turning to mush.

----
Pork belly! I have one in the freezer for cooking sous-vide. The opposite of the microwave, the ultimate slow cooker for meat! I cook in batches, meal-size portions each in their own bag, (I use one of those Chinese snout sealers that uses the cheaper commercial sealing bags) what I do not use one day goes in the freezer unopened, and then 30 minutes at 130F to defrost and some kind of searing - whether pan, torch, or out on the grill.

My go-to lately has been Picanha. A local butcher gets it from a local packer, and the packer butchers a small number of the cows european/South American style. (Otherwise the butcher cuts up whole sides of beef themselves.) The shop always has exactly two Picanhas in the case, LOL. For $15/pound, this is WAY better than any rib eye or NY Strip at twice the price. It is BOTH tender AND flavorful. Gets just two hours in the sous-vide at 137F - like a ribeye or NY (not two days like some flavorful but tough cuts). I cut it into steaks and put each steak in a bag. I ALWAYS have a handy Picanha steak or two in the freezer! (And some chicken breasts, pork chops, etc.) There is NO perceptible difference between defrosted (in the sous-vide water bath) and "fresh" so I am always 1/2 hour away from a delicious meat course.

I do a few other things with the sous-vide. Not so useful for vegetables. It is good for making batter for french ice cream with no watchful stirring. And I make 6 quarts of flawless, predictable french yogurt at a time in mason jars. Very stable and not runny as one might expect of homemade yogurt.

Pork belly is a two-day affair. But it is two days of the equivalent of watching paint dry.

I DO know how to cook. But I had a brain ***t on the fresh pasta in the microwave cooker!
 

Tomorrow

macrumors 604
Mar 2, 2008
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Always a day away
Another tip for cooking pasta - use the hottest water you can get.

*waits for the ridicule to stop*

Seriously, salt your water - it raises the boiling point and gives you a firmer, cleaner pasta. Using a steam kettle or "barely" boiling water leaves the pasta gummy.

Your pasta should be in water at a FULL rolling boil. If it looks like it's simmering, it's not hot enough.