Pasta is the food of students because it’s easy, cheap and delicious. With this guide, you’ll learn the dos and don’ts of making pasta and how to start off.
Firstly, make sure you use a large pan so that the pasta has plenty of room to be stirred and thus will not stick together. Add your water first and let it boil before adding your pasta. The pasta starch will absorb water quickly, so it needs to be boiling to ensure it cooks properly and is not mushy.
The proportions of water to pasta tend to be one litre of water per 100 grams of pasta. You should also make sure to salt your water, around two teaspoons per 100 grams of pasta. Once boiling, add your pasta.
The cooking time of pasta will vary, so check the packet for instructions. Make sure you taste test your pasta before removing it from the heat. It should not be hard or mushy, a firmness in-between called al-dente. Once ready, drain your pasta but retain some pasta water to add to your sauce for flavour. It is important not to rinse your pasta with water as it will wash away the starch needed for the sauce to cling to it. Leave it to steam dry for a few minutes before adding it to your sauce so that the sauce sticks.
Always have your sauce ready to add your pasta into as it will be more evenly coated. When you first start cooking pasta it is easy to use jars of sauces before advancing to preparing your own. Heat this up on a low heat in a separate saucepan whilst your pasta cooks, then add your pasta with a little pasta water. Serve in a bowl or on a plate, and voila! You’re ready to eat.
Alternatively, you can make your own sauce. The easiest sauce is as simple as melting butter in a pan, letting it cook until it smells nutty and turns golden. Add seasonings, if you wish, such as garlic salt or mixed herbs. Add your pasta to it, mix and serve.
Cheese sauce is also straightforward. Put 100 grams of grated cheese (strong cheddar is best) and four tablespoons of plain flour into a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, along with 500ml of milk and 50 grams of butter. Put on a low heat, stirring constantly. Everything will melt together and once thick, add your pasta and serve.
The other essential sauce to know is tomato. Fry onion in a splash of oil until it softens. Stir in a 400-gram tin of chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, one teaspoon of sugar and one tablespoon of tomato puree. Bring to the boil and simmer for two to three minutes before adding in your pasta. You can also add mixed herbs or basil for some extra flavour.
It is also possible to use tins of soup, such as mushroom or tomato, for sauces in pasta dishes and pasta bakes. The key thing is to experiment. Fry up some chicken or vegetables to add. Use new seasonings. In no time at all you can be a pasta expert, impressing your new flatmates, but remember it is alright to make mistakes.
Feature image credit: New York Times