The pasta and red sauce lesson

blogff0001.JPGThis is how it goes:

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil. Add enough salt so that the water tastes like a well seasoned soup. Salting your pasta at the end is like starting your training for the olympics when the bus drops you off for the meet. Too little too late. Buy the good pasta; it makes a big difference. I like De Cecco, but there are plenty of others.

Finely chop about four cloves of garlic and get it nearly golden in the best olive oil that you have. (If you have someone who is not so crazy about garlic then just slice the garlic in half and remove once it is golden.) Add five fresh whole basil leaves, and stand back because they sputter. Season with a little salt, and off the heat, add a few red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon). Squish a 28 ounce can of San Marzano (a variety of plum tomato) in a separate bowl, with your hand, until they are pretty smooth. Yes you do need to use your hand. You need a chance to feel a tomato and get up close and personal with what you are eating. Now, still off the heat, add the tomato. Turn the heat on to a medium flame, and with another pinch of salt, simmer for at least half an hour. Chop up about a quarter pound of fresh mozzarella into 1 inch cubes. Rip up a few more basil leaves. Drop the pasta into the cooking water, about 1/2 a pound. When it is al dente, still a bit of that white line visible when you bite into it, and then drain well.

Taste your sauce. It should be delicious. Think about if the tomato needs a little more salt, not to make it taste like salt, but to taste the tomato. Or you might need another spill of olive oil to calm the acid of the tomato down (if you are using super good olive oil; if not, just add a tab of butter)

Get the pasta back into the dry pan. Add enough sauce to cover it well, and bring to a simmer for a minute, just give the pasta a chance to absorb some of the sauce. Taste again for salt. (can you believe it?) Turn off the flame. Add the ripped basil, the mozzarella cubes, and plenty of parmigiano reggiano.

That’s it. Pour yourself a glass of wine or water and tuck in to some serious noodles.

3 thoughts on “The pasta and red sauce lesson

  1. Faye dear, the point of my gargantuan thread about foodmyths on was that it’s just fine to boil your pasta in 2 quarts of water and with no salt. I just challenge you to try it and mix in your perfectly seasoned sauce post draining in the collander. Tastes fine, doesn’t it? I should know because i do it all the time and nobody EVER says, delicious tho’ this pasta IS, it is oh so obvious you cooked it in too little water and to add insult to injury – commited the horrible sin of not salting the water. How dare you think it’s OK to JUST salt the sauce…….even tho’ it DOES taste JUST AS GOOD.

    Pasta cooks faster – less waiting around – adds up to useful days and weeks over a lifetime.
    No risk of spilling gallons of boiling water – no more third degree burns
    Starchier water helps the sauce to adhere to the noodle better
    Save $ on expensive kosher or sea salt
    Never over-salt by mis-guess how much salt will be exactly right to match the salt in your sauce
    Never strain your back hauling 20 pounds of boiling pasta and water across the kitchen to the sink.
    Strike a blow for freedom from boring food myths!

  2. the thing about the salt is, that for years (before cooking on the job) I never salted any water. The only salt I knew was whatever was on sale; it went in a shaker with a few or many rice bits depending on the weather. So I made many many pots of pasta without salt. I started cooking professionally just because there were never enough hands in the kitchen. I volunteered because I was broke and because I probably would have lost my job as pastry if I had said no. For the first year cooking, all I heard was “FAYE, where is the *&&###F!!F! SALT! Of course that doesn’t make them right, but it started me thinking about the importance, or at least the issue of seasoning your food before it gets to the table, including the noodle, and which was better. For a vegetable I agree–there are certain vegetables that have such a delicate flavor, that they can be lost by salting the water, or fish before it goes in a braise–very teeny tiny bit of salt. But pasta, potato, and rice, to me, need a fair amount, not a massive amount as can happen with some cooks–I’m not looking to taste a little bit of pasta with my salt–but enough to taste the pasta, which of course is what salting is all about anyway. If you wait until pasta is done, to me, the salt just sits on the outside, leaving the noodle on the other side of the door of the dish in a sense, which is fine for particular ingredients that you want to stand out, but pasta, (to me) is something to marry into the dish.
    I think it’s more of a taste issue and less of myth. But I like your chootzpah (and I can’t spell to save my life)

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