World Pasta Day 2022: Three essential tips to making great homemade pasta
By Chef Vanessa Bayma, Founder of CBC consultancy and events
Celebrated annually on October 25, World Pasta Day is just another reason to ditch the low-carb diet and indulge in this widely appreciated and much-loved dish.
With endless pasta-bilities, one can choose their favourite type of pasta in all shapes and sizes and devour it with a sauce of your choice. From a good ol’ Mac n’ Cheese to the classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and also the simple Carbonara, we are honouring this versatile dish that is easy to cook, may it be for big occasions or for just for an everyday small win.
Here are three essential tips for all fellow pasta lovers to follow:
- Ditch the olive oil when boiling pasta
It’s common practice for individuals to add a little olive oil to their boiling water prior to adding the pasta, to make sure it does not stick. However, scientifically, since oil and water do not mix, the oil only forms a layer over the water which does not help with anything.
As a matter of fact, while draining the water since the oil latches on to the pasta, it makes it harder for the pasta sauce to stick to it, doing more harm than good. And as we all know, the pasta sauce is the main reason most people eat the dish.
- Always salt your pasta water and never rinse it
As an unspoken rule, it is important to season the water before cooking your pasta. While the sauce is always added to the pasta at a later stage, the only way to flavour the pasta itself would be by adding salt to your water.
Furthermore, there has been a lot of debate in the past when it comes to rinsing your pasta after cooking it. While it is true that is stops the cooking process so that your pasta does not get too mushy, it also removes the starch that is released by the pasta.
Once the starch is washed off, the pasta tends to get a wet coating, slippery slickness, making it difficult, if not near impossible, for any sauce to latch on to your pasta. Therefore, it is highly recommended to not put your hot pasta under water after cooking, unless you are about to make a cold salad.
- Choose your sauce as per the shape
Italy has over 500 pasta shapes and sizes. Right from long (pasta lunga), short (pasta corta), stuffed (ripiena), cooked in broth (pastina), stretched (strascinati) or in dumpling-like form (gnocchi/gnocchetti).
To know the perfect pasta shape for your sauce is essential, but not an easy task. And take it from someone who has Italian roots, we are surely quite strict about the sauces that go with each type of pasta, for good reason.
If you are using thin pastas like spaghetti and vermicelli, always choose thinner sauces like butter sauce, tomato or an olive oil whereas if you are into hollow pastas like penne, then the ideal sauce would be something rich and meaty. Additionally, for the smallest ones like the tiny ditalini the best option would be to use it in a soup.
Pairing the right shape of pasta with your sauce will have an incredible result while the wrong ones can completely ruin your dish. So, choose wisely!
Penne Butternut Squash Parmesan Sauce
1 large or 2 small butternut squash weighing about 1.5 kilos
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallots or yellow onions
1/4 cup packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup double cooking cream
¼ tsp thyme
1 tablespoon/pinch of microgreens for garnish
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Pepper, to taste
Vegetable stock (unsalted) as needed to thin the sauce, about 1 cup
Roast the butternut squash:
Preheat the oven to 240°c. Chop the butternut into 2cm cubes
Toss butternut and garlic cloves in olive oil and a pinch of salt
Roast for 25-30 minutes or until slightly charred.
In a pot, add some olive oil and the chopped onions and sweat until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic and butternut to the pot, stir and then add the veg stock and herbs. Simmer for 5 min
Add cream and stir, cook for an additional 5-10min
Immerse blend until smooth
Add the parmesan and continue to cook, add more stock or cream until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water:
Fill a pot with water and salt (1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Set over high heat to bring to a hard boil. Add the pasta and cook at a hard boil, uncovered until al dente.
Mix cooked pasta with sauce:
When the pasta is ready, drain and reserve a little of the water, immediately add to the hot sauce and stir.
Plate and serve with microgreens as a garnish