When it comes to pasta salad, I’m firmly in the no-mayonnaise camp. In an effort to avoid the whole mayo-laden dish sitting out in the hot sun conundrum, I usually dress my pasta salad in a light vinaigrette before serving it at a barbecue.
But what if you want something a little creamier? That’s where tahini comes in.
The next time you find yourself with a neglected cup of macaroni or that last serving of spaghetti that no one seems to want, promise me you’ll try this. I’ve been making pasta frittatas ever since another Kitchn writer mentioned it years ago, and it is hands down my favorite way to use up leftover pasta—along with whatever else is hanging around in the fridge.
When the Epi team started brainstorming ideas for #EpiLunchWeek, we first delved deep into our own lunchtime quandries. Photo editor Chelsea Kyle’s first question: “How do I revive a day-old portion of pasta?”
The most obvious answer: don’t. Start with a pasta dish that’s as good cold as it is served fresh from the kitchen (perhaps packed into a jar).
But if it’s piping hot noodles enrobed in rich sauce you’re after, the answer isn’t so clear.
It starts the usual way sauces do—sauté onion and garlic, add some chile flakes, then booze, then tomatoes, but then it swerves off course. Here’s the secret to its success: You take this perfectly adequate sauce and roast it in the oven for an hour and a half.
I sometimes start my sauce by caramelizing my tomato paste in olive oil over the heat, then deglazing that with about 1/4 bottle of red wine. The sweet caramelized tomato paste/wine combo makes things really punchy in the end, even through a long simmer.
Most instructions for cooking dried pasta are invariably the same: Drop the noodles into a pot of boiling water, bring it back to a boil, and keep it bubbling vigorously until the pasta is done. We already broke with this conventional wisdom by showing that you can cook pasta in a lot less water than is typically called for, as long as you don’t mind stirring it frequently.
Now we’ve learned that you don’t need to hold your pasta water at a rolling boil either. In fact, you don’t even need to keep the pot on the heat. The pasta will cook just fine if you take the pot off the burner as soon as you add the pasta, cover it immediately, stir once or twice during the first minute, cover again, and leave it to sit for the recommended cooking time. We tested this method with spaghetti, shells, farfalle, and ziti, using the full 4 quarts of water recommended per pound, and we found that the texture was identical to that of pasta we boiled the conventional way.
I grew up not drinking hot water from the tap (my parents didn’t, and I eventually looked it up and found out that in old homes, lead can leach from solder). Now that I have a high-efficiency tankless hot water heater and replaced the copper piping with PEX, can I safely use hot water from the tap for cooking? I must be able to save some energy vs. boiling cold water for pasta.
Surprising news, considering that home insurance gives discounts for having PEX because PEX is less likely to fail. Water damage in a house is admittedly bad for everyone.
Always check your Water Tank Anode if your tank is more than 5 years old, and replace it ASAP. The minute that anode is corroded enough to be ineffective, that water is eating at your tank – not the rod. You should also drain the tank once a year till it runs clean too.
Here’s something I’ve always wondered: when baking pasta, as in, say, lasagna or baked ziti, why do you always cook the pasta first? Aren’t you inviting trouble by cooking it once, then proceeding to put it in a casserole and cooking it again? Well, there’s the obvious first part of the answer to this question: pasta needs to absorb water as it cooks—a lot of water, around 80 percent of its own weight when perfectly al dente. So, add raw pasta directly to a baked pasta dish, and it will soften all right—it’ll also suck up all of the moisture from the sauce, leaving it dry or broken.
I thought the pasta drew moisture from the sauce. It does… resulting in dry sauce. I’ve always wondered about those pastas marketed as not needing to be boiled first—how are they different from regular pasta or is this just some marketing ploy? Anyway, traditionally recipes recommend boiling the pasta first.
Fresh ravioli tastes so much better, but take a lot of effort to make from scratch. Mario Batali has a shortcut to get the same deliciousness with less effort: use store-bought wonton wrappers instead of spending all day making pasta dough.
But Graziella’s pasta salad didn’t taste like the many I’d eaten at backyard barbecues here in the States. There was an undertone to them, a background flavor that was in every bite, but was hard to identify.
When I finally cobbled together enough Italian to ask Graziella how she made her pasta, I realized what I was tasting: garlic. But not minced or crushed or sliced garlic. No, Graziella used the essence of garlic. And she found that essence in just one clove, which she rubbed on the inside of the bowl that she’d eventually be tossing the pasta in.