Cooking Questions: Pasta

Browse our frequently asked cooking questions for advice on preparing pasta.

Pasta Basico

Photo by mommyluvs2cook

Can lasagna be put together one day, and cooked the next?

Lasagna is a perfect make-ahead meal. You can certainly make it one day, and bake it the next. Store the lasagna in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. It also stands up to freezing quite well, so you can make it, freeze it, and bake it at your convenience.

I have a recipe for Alfredo sauce, and though I followed it exactly, the cheeses never melted in the sauce. It was all lumpy and clumpy. What happened?

Temperature is very important for an Alfredo sauce. The sauce should be hot, but not boiling. If the sauce is not hot enough, the cheese may not melt well. A boiling sauce will separate and curdle. To maintain an even temperature, the cheese should be grated very fine and gradually stirred into the sauce in batches, only adding more after the first addition is thoroughly melted and the sauce smooth.

What is Ziti?

Ziti is a slender tubular pasta. It works well with hearty sauces, and is well suited for baked pasta dishes. Any tubular pasta may be substituted for it such as macaroni or penne. Check out our Pasta Types article for more shapes.

Can I cook pasta ahead of time then reheat it?

You can put your pasta on hold for a few minutes by simply putting the colander (that you drained the noodles in) on top of the pot, then covering with the lid. The residual heat/steam will keep the noodles warm for a few minutes. If you want to pre-cook the pasta, and then reheat later, you can do this by cooking it as usual, but leave it slightly undercooked. Drain and toss with a little oil. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat by dropping the noodles into boiling water for a minute or two, until heated through. (Many stock pots come with a pasta strainer basket, and this is a good use for it.) Be sure not to over-cook the pasta.

What does “al dente” mean?

One of the biggest no-no’s in pasta preparation is overcooking. Take a cue from the Italians, and boil your pasta until it’s al dente, which means “to the tooth.” In other words, it should be tender but slightly firm to the bite. The longer you cook pasta, the mushier it gets. Don’t rely on the clock to evaluate doneness. Use those teeth!