Never Drink Red Wine With Fish! Famous Food Rules You Can Absolutely Ignore
It is said you should never wash a mushroom, add salt to pulses in the pan or cook with olive oil. But accepted wisdom isn’t always right (mofongosphilly)
There comes a point in life when you should start to question the big things – to probe accepted ideas around religion, politics, and the best way to cook pasta. Forget what you learned at your mother’s knee, what it says on the packet, or what you once heard a celebrity chef say on Saturday Kitchen … or rather, check it for accuracy. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to crack an egg … but I maintain the most efficient is to tap it against a flat surface and then pull it apart over a bowl. Here are a few other culinary facts that might come as a surprise.
Cook Pasta In Water ‘As Salty As The Sea’
I admit this notion does have a certain romance – it’s nice to think you’re tasting the Adriatic while eating spaghetti alle vongole in Enfield – but if you’ve ever been smacked in the face by a wave you’ll know that level of saltiness is far too much for human consumption. And while it’s true that most of the salt will disappear down the plughole when you drain the pasta, if you try cooking it at the same level of salinity as the Med, with 38g salt per litre of water, you’ll find it’s still completely unpalatable.
To be fair, those who repeat the claim, like Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi in their book The Long & the Short of Pasta, or even the great food writer Anna del Conte, are usually mistaken about the saltiness of the sea, rather than how to cook pasta, because the Caldesis go on to recommend a mere 5g of salt per litre. Certainly you do need some salt – pasta cooked without it will be bland and disappointing, however delicious the accompanying sauce – but how much depends on your palate.
Del Conte suggests 10g per litre, or at least a teaspoon-worth “if you want a pasta worth eating”, a formula also approved by the Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli. According to Serious Eats culinary director Daniel Gritzer, 2% is, for him, “the top end of what’s tolerable, tasting very well seasoned but also noticeably salty”.
There’s also debate around whether pasta is best cooked in a very large pan of water, as is traditional, or whether you can save power by using a smaller pot, and less water. I won’t delve into it here, but look up J Kenji López-Alt’s take on the subject on the aforementioned Serious Eats website.
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