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Old 04-02-2008, 05:58 PM
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Default Baked pasta

With the nice recent baked pasta dishes in What You Cooked Last Night, I thought it would be good to add pasta to the Rice and Veggie category.

To kick things off -- I made Lasagna al Forno last night and have a question. How do you keep the pasta noodles from sticking together? I used the Egg and Durum flour pasta sheets that we sell in the FB Store, and followed Kyle's Italianfood.about.com recipe.

Help on the sticking pasta!
James
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Old 04-23-2008, 04:32 PM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: Baked pasta

May I ask at what stage of the cooking process they were sticking together?
Ron
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Old 04-23-2008, 07:04 PM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

When I take the lasagne sheets out of the boiling water. I add them one at a time, but they stick in the water. I use a lot of water and salt (added after the water starts boilling).

Any ideas?
James
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Old 04-23-2008, 07:46 PM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Many people use a Tbsp of olive oil in the water, myself included. It doesn't help that much. As soon as the noodles are cool enough to handle, I spread them out all over the place to cool. A pasta drying rack might be ideal - mine's still in a box. The countertop suffices in a pinch.
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Old 04-23-2008, 08:50 PM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: Baked pasta

James,
I hope this addresses the problem you had. This is what I do when I put together a lasagna or make a pasta salad. First, make sure you have plenty of boiling salted water so the pasta has lots of room to cook in. Stir the pasta occasionally after adding it to the water to keep it from sticking together.

When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it in a colander and then return the pasta to the same pot and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. This also rinses much of the starch off the pasta which otherwise would cause the pasta to stick together. When the pasta is cold, drain it again. The sheets shouldn't stick together as long as they remain somewhat wet (or you can lay the sheets out in a single layer on a damp towel for a short time before assembling the lasagna). Usually you will be putting the lasagna together shortly after cooking the noodles, so sticking should not be a problem.

Now, if I am going to be serving the pasta immediately (such as with spaghetti sauce), I use a different procedure. I drain the pasta and sauce it right away. The starch on the hot pasta helps the sauce to stick to it better.

On another tangent, you can also cook any pasta ahead of time, as is done in many restaurants, to the al dente stage , then drain it, rinse it in cold water and toss it with a little olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together. Store the pasta in the refrigerator until needed. When you are ready to serve it, drop the amount of pasta you need into a pot of boiling water to heat it for a minute or so, then drain and sauce as usual. The downside of this is that, since the starch has been rinsed off, the sauce doesn't stick to the pasta quite as well as with freshly cooked.

I hope this is helpful.
Ron
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Old 04-23-2008, 10:18 PM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Very nice Ron,

Thanks. Lots of water, stir, cold water to stop cooking, and rinse a second time. I'm going to try that. I sort knew I was doing something wrong.
James
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Old 04-24-2008, 02:17 AM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Um, I don't want to tread on anybody's toes here, but having grown up in a country close to Italy and with a large population of Italian imigrants... cooking pasta ahead of time is... well its like pizza from Pizzahut.

And that is the reason I would never order pasta at a restaurant either. Pasta needs to be cooked in plenty of boiling water (with salt and some oil) until it is al dente, drained, tossed with a dollop of buter or olive oil and served immediately. Sorry to contradict, and obviously tastes are different - but this is something I feel quite strongly about.

Doesn't really help with the Lasagne though. I always use the lasagne sheets that don't need to be precooked. Make the sauce more liquid, put in the uncooked sheets and they cook in the liquid from the sauce.
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Old 04-24-2008, 07:41 AM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Frances,
No offense taken and certainly no argument here on your assessment of the quality of pasta cooked ahead of time. It's not something I ever do at home, but I have worked in restaurants where that is the method of the chef and just pointed that out as an option, albeit, not a very good one.

I, too, often layer uncooked lasagna sheets in my lasagne and have had good success. There is a precooked lasagna noodle available for doing just that, but I have found them to be inferior in both quality and texture.
Ron
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Old 04-24-2008, 07:47 AM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Quote:
Originally Posted by gjbingham View Post
Many people use a Tbsp of olive oil in the water, myself included. It doesn't help that much.
U.S. foodies who watch Alton Brown might remember him doing an experiment with this. He added a measured amount of oil to his pasta water. After draining, he measured the amount of oil in the water. The result won't surprise you: almost all of the oil was in the water. His recommendation, which seems to coincide with what people are saying here: Toss the drained pasta with a little oil or add sauce right away.

I don't have cable TV anymore, but Alton Brown is still one of my favorites.

EDIT: I should add that I have noticed that a small amount of oil can help really starchy things from boiling over. This makes sense to me intuitively; has anyone else noticed this?
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Old 04-24-2008, 12:32 PM
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Default Re: Baked pasta

Ed - never even thought of it.

Frances! Now now! Don't get your panties all in a wad over precooked pasta! I undercook mine, short of al dente and let the oven finish it off. I'm not sure how the original lasagne were made - did they precook the pasta? 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven is still going to cook the stuff past al dente (at least I think!).

Rberg02 - sounds like you have good experience in this arena. Anyone else?
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