ALMOST everyone enjoys eating spaghetti. But did you know that this shaped pasta gets its name from its stringlike appearance? In the Italian language, the word for string is spago. From this we get the derivative “spaghetti,” or “little pieces of string.”
“How do you cook it?” we ask.
Apart from the sauce you decide to use, it is important that the spaghetti itself be cooked underdone. That means it should be cooked in boiling water with a little salt and taken out before it becomes too soft. Ideally, it should be slightly chewy. We Italians call it al dente (to the tooth). This is why the best quality spaghetti cannot be made with common wheat flour but only with flour from durum wheat. Cooking the pasta to the right point is one of the secrets of preparing a plate of tasty spaghetti.
It isn’t all that difficult to cook spaghetti! But for it to be truly tasty, remember you must not overcook the pasta.”
For every 100 grams (1/4 lb) of pasta, put about 1 liter (1 qt) of water in a pot to boil with 5 grams (1 tsp) of coarse-grained salt. Let the water boil for two minutes. Then add the spaghetti, and stir immediately with a spoon or a fork to prevent it from sticking together. The water will momentarily stop boiling. Please do not put a lid on the pot.
When the water starts boiling again, lower the temperature so that the water boils only slightly. Stir the pasta from time to time. The cooking time depends on the type of pasta you are using, whether thick or thin. The time also depends on the altitude, since water boils at lower temperatures at higher altitudes. Sometimes the cooking time is written on the spaghetti package. In any case, keep an eye on the spaghetti while it is cooking, and above all, keep testing it!
As you stir the pasta, you will feel when it starts to soften. That’s when you should take a piece out to try it. Put it on a plate to cool so you don’t burn your tongue. Then taste it. If it is still hard, let the spaghetti cook a bit longer. When it’s soft but chewy, that is al dente. It’s time to take the pot off the stove. Drain the spaghetti in a colander immediately. If the spaghetti keeps standing in the hot water, it will continue to cook and become too soft.
Is that all?
Cooking the pasta is only part of the job of preparing an appetizing dish, Spaghetti needs a sauce. The sauce is another secret of success. Spaghetti goes very well with a tomato sauce made from peeled tomatoes cooked together in some olive oil with chopped garlic and onions. Or it can even be served with butter and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. However, let me give you two recipes for some appetizing dishes:
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
300 to 400 grams spaghetti (3/4 to 1 lb)
120 grams lean smoked bacon (1/4 lb)
50 grams butter (1 3/4 oz)
3 egg yolks
40 grams grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese (1 1/2 oz)
Pepper and salt to taste
Just before putting the spaghetti into the boiling water:
1. Cut bacon into 3- to 4-millimeter cubes (1/8 in.).
2. Melt the butter in a pan over low heat.
3. Cook the bacon in the butter.
4. Add pepper and salt. Stir mixture frequently to avoid drying up the bacon; remove from stove when bacon is sufficiently browned.
5. Beat the three egg yolks together with the grated cheese in a bowl.
6. Pour the egg-cheese mixture into the pan with the bacon. Cook it lightly for a minute or so. Be very careful that eggs do not set.
7. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked al dente, it should be drained. Put spaghetti into serving bowl and mix it with the prepared sauce. Now it is ready to be served piping hot.
The name Carbonara comes from “I Carbonari“ They were 19th-century revolutionaries who were members of a secret society. It’s possible that this recipe is named after them, or it could have been named in honor of the more prosaic sellers of charcoal who have the very same name. We really don’t know its origin. Maybe the name was invented because it sounded good.”
Pesto alla Genovese
50 grams of small, fresh basil leaves (1 3/4 oz)
1 cup olive oil (8 oz)
2 cloves garlic
30 grams pine nuts (1 oz)
50 grams grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese (1 3/4 oz)
Pinch of salt
1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water until clean, and then dry them well with a clean cloth. (It is important that the basil leaves not be taken from a large plant because they will not have the desired flavor.)
2. Peel and slice the garlic, and put it into a mortar. Add the basil leaves. Crush both garlic and basil leaves together against the bottom and sides of the mortar with the pestle until a smooth paste results. (If you do not have a mortar, you can obtain similar results by mixing the same ingredients in an electric blender.)
3. Gradually add the grated cheese, oil, and pine nuts. As you do this, continue mixing and pounding to obtain a creamy sauce of an attractive green color. If you think it is too thick, add a little more olive oil.
4. Add a pinch of salt. Taste the pesto to regulate the amount of salt needed, since this will vary according to the kind of cheese you have used. It will not require any cooking. Pesto is a cold sauce!
5. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked al dente, drain it and put it into a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over it and mix well while it is hot. Now the dish is ready to serve and eat.
Pesto is a typical dish from Genoa, the chief city of the Liguria region. As you know, its ingredients are crushed or pounded together in a mortar. Since the Italian word meaning ‘to crush’ or ‘to pound’ is pestare, the resulting sauce is known as pesto.”
Are you thinking of trying these recipes?
Then I have just to add: Buon Appetito!
All measurement conversions in article are approximations. You may wish to vary measurements to personal taste.