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How to Cook Pasta

Both fresh and dried pasta are cooked in the same way. The golden rules for success are: use plenty of water and keep checking the pasta to be sure it does not overcook. Fresh pasta will cook much more quickly than dried — in 1-4 minutes as opposed to 5 minutes or more.

1 – Bring a very large pot of salted water to the boil: use at least 6 pints (4 litres) of water and 2 teaspoons salt to 1 lb (450g) of pasta. Drop in the pasta all at once and stir to separate the shapes or strands.

2 – If you are cooking spaghetti, allow the ends in the water to soften slightly and then gently push in the rest as soon as you can.

3 – Bring the water back to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and boil until the pasta is just done. For dried pasta, follow the packet instructions, but start testing as soon as you reach the minimum time given. To test, lift a piece of pasta out on a wooden fork or slotted spoon. Cut it in half. There should be no sign of opaque, uncooked pasta in the centre. Or bite it should be tender but still firm. In Italian, this is when it is ‘al dente’, or to the tooth.

4 – Drain the pasta well in a colander, shaking it vigorously to remove all excess water. Serve immediately because the pasta will continue to cook from its own heat. When to undercook pasta If you are going to cook the pasta further, by baking it in a lasagne for example, undercook it slightly at this first stage. Pasta for a salad should also be a little under-cooked, so that it will not be-come soggy when it is mixed with the dressing.

Buttered Noodles Cook 1 lb (450g) fettuccine or tagliatelle (fresh or dried) until ‘al dente’. Drain well and return to the pot. Add 11/2-2oz (45-55g) butter or margarine and a good pinch of grated nutmeg. Season. Toss until the noodles are coated, then serve. Serves 6.
Buttered Noodles with Herbs Omit the nutmeg and add 1/2oz (15 g) chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, basil or thyme —singly or a mixture.
Buttered Noodles with Cheese Add 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

How to Make Pasta Dough

Pasta dough is very simple to make and, like most things, the more you do it the better the results will be. As in making pastry and bread doughs, the quantity of liquid needed can vary, according to how absorbent the flour is. The recipe here is for a basic egg pasta, with several variations.

MAKES ABOUT 1 LB (450G)

10oz (300g) plain flour, preferably ‘type 00’ pasta flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 size-2 eggs, beaten to mix

1 – Put the flour and salt on a work surface and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs to the well.

2 – With fingertips, gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs. When all the flour is mixed in, you should be able to gather up a pliable dough; if too moist, add more flour.

3 – Flour the work surface. Knead the dough by pushing it away with the heel of your hand and then folding it back. Continue kneading for 8-10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. (Or use a pasta machine for kneading )

4 – A Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl. Cover with cling film. Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before rolling and cutting.

Pasta flavourings

• For Green Pasta: Blanch 12oz (340g) spinach, Swiss chard or other green leaves, then drain well and squeeze dry. Purée or chop the greens very finely. Add with the eggs.

• For Fresh Herb Pasta: Finely chop 1 oz (30g) fresh herb leaves, such as basil, flat-leaf parsley and coriander. Add with the eggs.

• For Tomato Pasta: Add 11/2 tablespoons tomato purée with the eggs. • For Lemon Pasta: Add 11/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest with the eggs.

• For Herb and Garlic Pasta: Add 1/z oz (15g) finely chopped mixed parsley and oregano or marjoram and 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves with the beaten eggs.

• For Saffron Pasta: Add 1/2 tea-spoon ground saffron to the flour and salt or steep Vz teaspoon saf-fron threads in 1 tablespoon very hot water and add with the eggs through a small sieve.

• For Wholemeal Pasta: Substi-tute 21/2oz (75 g) wholemeal flour for the same quantity of plain flour.

Food processor pasta dough To mix the pasta dough in a food processor, put the flour and salt in the container. Pulse to blend. With the machine running, gradu-ally add the eggs through the feed tube. Continue processing for 3-5 minutes or until the ingredients come together into a smooth ball of dough that is elastic

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