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Jesse's Blog 49 - Pasta2019.02.10


Jesse's Blog 49 - Pasta

Hello!
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I’ve noticed that Japanese people get really excited about Italian food.  Of course, when people think of Italian food, they think of Italy, not America.  However, a little over 100 years ago, millions of Italian people moved to America, mostly to the New York area, and Italian cooking came with them.  Now, America has a strong culture around Italian cooking, so today I want to give you all some advice about the most important kind of Italian cooking: pasta.
 
You can buy dry pasta at any supermarket in Japan.  The box has instructions on the back, and you can follow those instructions and have some nice pasta.  But pasta can be so much better with a few simple tricks!
 
First, when you boil the pasta, add salt to the water.  A lot of salt.  Most beginners don’t add enough salt.  Some people say the water should be “as salty as the sea”.  That’s probably a little too much, but the idea is correct, the water should be really salty.  I recommend about 1 tablespoon of salt for each liter of water you use.
 
Second, use less water.  A lot of people boil pasta in a really big pot of water.  Restaurants use really big pots!  That’s good for the restaurant, because they use the same pot of water all day for their pasta.  At home, you should use much less.  I actually don’t use a pot at all, I use a frying pan.  You only need enough water to cover the pasta.  If you’re making spaghetti, the noodles are really long, so you need a wide pan like a big frying pan, so they can lay flat.  If you use short pasta, it’s much easier, and you can use a really small pot.  Why?  Well, for one thing it heats up faster.  But more importantly, it’s for the third tip.
 
Third, take the pasta out a little before it’s finished cooking.  In Italian, this is called “al dente”.  Taste a piece, and if it feels almost finished but still has a little bite in the middle, take it out now.  But save the water!  Pour the water into another bowl.  Put the pasta back in the pan, and add your sauce.  Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, and add a little of the pasta water.  If the sauce seems too dry, add more pasta water.  The pasta water has a lot of starch from the pasta in it, and starch will bond with the oils in your sauce, making it thicker.  It will also help the sauce stick to the pasta, instead of sliding off into a puddle at the bottom of the dish.  If you boiled your pasta in a big pot of water, there isn’t enough starch in the water to help.  If you used less water, then it has a lot of starch.  That’s why the less water you use the more powerful your pasta water is for the sauce.
 
Of course, the most fun part of cooking pasta is making the sauce, and there are thousands of sauces to experiment with.  Ask me about sauce in the lobby sometime.  If you want to get really fancy, try making fresh pasta instead of dry pasta from a box, it’s amazing.  But even if you just use a bottle of store sauce and a box of dry pasta, the tips I shared today will give your pasta an Italian restaurant taste!

PS- Yesterday, Feb 9, was the one month mark for my diet.  Starting weight was 99.2kg, and yesterday morning it was 89.0kg.  10.2kg in one month!

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