A whole bunch of us grew up eating chicken piccata at Italian-American restaurants with our parents, or at least I did, preceded by an entire serving of fried calamari, and breadsticks too. I’d eat every last little swipe of sauce, excited at how it made the back of my tongue water, at how smooth it felt, at how it draped itself over long strips of pasta. It’s a thrilling sauce. Even more thrilling is the fact that you can use it on any protein that goes well with lemon and wine. (Even tofu and chickpeas!)
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.
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.
You’ve seen labels advertising “unbleached” flour. Few labels announce that their flour is “bleached,” but that’s exactly what happens to most white flour. It’s not just about the color, though—it’s an actual chemical change. Here’s how it works and why your cakes just wouldn’t taste the same without it.
Carb-heavy meals are notorious for making you hungry and cranky later in the day, not to mention gaining weight. But if you really want to eat your pasta and potatoes, you can make the meal easier for your body to deal with by adding other food to it. Pancakes and bacon are a better bet than pancakes alone.
While some broths are destined to remain thin and wispy, other soups taste best when served thick and creamy. But what do you do when it’s too late to add a slurry to a meaty soup? Or you’re gluten-free and must skip flour and bread? Or are vegan and don’t like the idea of butter in your soup?
The answer to all these culinary obstacles lies in white beans. Blended white beans.
Popcorn: it’s equally fun to make and to eat. But just what makes each kernel pop the way it does and what is the ideal temperature for popcorn to pop at? A new study answers all these questions.
“Popcorn is the funniest corn to cook, because it jumps and makes a ‘pop’ sound in our pans,” begin the researchers in their new article in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Indeed! But the knowledge about to dropped has only just begun, as the researchers explain that though the basics of popcorn popping are understood, the precise mechanics of the process remain shrouded in mystery: