Pasta basics, by the numbers

  • By Judyrae Kruse Herald Columnist
  • Thursday, January 17, 2008 10:46pm
  • Life

Anybody smart enough to boil water ought to be able to cook pasta. Still and all, most of us have discovered, sooner or later, with varying degees of dismay, that there’s a real thin line between pasta that’s either slightly underdone (so it’s gluey, chewy and sticks to your teeth) or a smidgin overcooked (a mushy embarrassment lurking down there under the sauce).

Here, then, are popular Seattle chef/restaurateur Mauro Golmarvi’s top 10 pasta preparation tips, along with his personal sentiments on the subject:

1. Use semolina pasta, a special flour ground from durum wheat. “If you cook with something else, fine, but don’t call it pasta!”

2. Remember that the ratio in the pot should be two parts water, one part pasta.

3. The water must be boiling before you put the pasta in — add salt to the boiling water.

4. Keep the pasta covered while it’s cooking. Adding the pasta lowers the temperature of the water, so you need to cover it to bring it back to a boil.

5. If you are using packaged pasta, undercook by three minutes from what the instructions tell you. “Don’t overcook pasta for nobody!”

6. When the pasta is ready, the color of the water should look a little yellow and foamy on the top.

7. Texture: Feel the pasta with your hand — it should be sticky. “Once you start wondering if it’s done, it’s done!”

8. Look: When you pick up a piece of cooked spaghetti, it should hang evenly on both sides.

9. Never rinse — instead, strain it, put it back in the pot to cook off the water, and add olive oil to keep it from sticking.

10. Share with people you love. “Cooking is about being with friends, drinking wine and getting happy!”

SOS: Camano Island reader Dr. Patricia A. Bloom writes, “I appreciated the recipe for peanut butter bowser doggy biscuits, but I have a question that I hope your readers can answer.

“I want to make dog cookies to send overseas for the dogs who bravely assist our military personnel. However, given that some of these packages may take weeks to arrive, I need a safe means of preserving the biscuits. Since I use all fresh ingredients, the cookies I currently make are only ‘good’ for a week or so. Do any of your readers have a suggestion as to how I can lengthen the shelf life of the dog biscuits?”

Great idea that, sending homemade biscuits to our hero dogs serving in the military, always assuming those in charge of these special canine units are allowed to accept the treats, considering the many necessary current restrictions on well-meant gifts, particularly edible ones, from the general public.

If you can help Patricia, please write to Judyrae Kruse at the Forum, c/o The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. We are always happy to receive your contributions and requests, but please remember that all letters and all e-mail must include a name, complete address with ZIP code and telephone number with area code. No exceptions and sorry, but no response to e-mail by return e-mail; send to

The next Forum will appear in Monday’s Time Out section.

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