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- How To Make A No-Boil Pasta Bake
- Reserve some water before you drain
- Hack #5: Use cauliflower to make a lighter but equally delicious version of Alfredo sauce
- Can you put dry pasta in sauce to cook?
- What happens if you dont use enough water when cooking pasta?
- Taste the noodles sooner than later
- Pasta problems
- Boil overs
- The Tasty Newsletter
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How To Make A No-Boil Pasta Bake
While I don’t really like pasta that has been simmered in the oven in water, I do seriously love this dish where you cook the pasta in the oven but it’s cooking in a sauce. I think the reason is that the pasta is soaking up all of that delicious flavor, and the soaked up flavors more than make up for any subtle gumminess. Or maybe the cheese in the dish hides that gumminess? Anyhow, here’s what you do…
Preheat the oven to 400°F. To a casserole dish add uncooked pasta shells, fully-cooked sliced sausage (I buy this roasted pepper and Asiago chicken sausage that is sold fully-cooked in either the organic lunch meat area or with the wieners, depending on your store), some canned diced tomato (with juice – you need the liquid here), seasonings, and shredded mozzarella. Stir.
Top that with heavy cream and chicken stock (a commenter to this recipe tried it with just chicken broth and says it worked great, so you can try that instead, if you’d like).
Cover very tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for an hour.
At that point the pasta will be cooked, but I like to add some shredded cheese to the top and put it back into the oven, uncovered, to melt the cheese. Then the pasta bake NEEDS TO REST for 15 minutes before serving.
Reserve some water before you drain
Almost always reserve a cup or so of your pasta water before you drain it. All the starch that your noodles released into the water will help thicken any sauce you make to dress the noodles. Plus, it will be a little salty, so it adds flavor to homemade sauces as well.
Hack #5: Use cauliflower to make a lighter but equally delicious version of Alfredo sauce
Can you put dry pasta in sauce to cook?
You can cook pasta in the sauce, but you need to make sure that you’re adding more liquid for the pasta to absorb. To do this, dilute the sauce until it covers the dry pasta, then continue to add more liquid whenever the pasta dries out. This leaves you with a creamy sauce and fewer pans to clean.
What happens if you dont use enough water when cooking pasta?
The pasta should be swimming in a sea of water because it will expand while cooking. If there is not enough water than the pasta will get mushy and sticky. The average pasta pot size is between 6 and 8 quarts, and it should be filled about 3/4 of the way or about 4-5 quarts with water for 1 pound of pasta.
Taste the noodles sooner than later
Plan on cooking your dry noodles anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of pasta. However, start checking it after four minutes because it can vary based on the size of the noodle. If you’ve made fresh pasta noodles, you may only need to boil for a minute or two, sometimes three.
If you’re boiling the noodles to add them to a casserole like a classic lasagna that will continue cooking the oven, stop cooking when they’re al dente. Additionally, if you’re cooling the cooked pasta to make pasta salad, cook the noodle just past al dente status to soak up more of the dressing.
You would think a food with so few ingredients would be simple to prepare. But pasta’s preparation can be fraught with problems, including boil-overs and clumping. However, a little scientific thought and the right tools can help you overcome these obstacles.
When the pasta cooks, of course, some of the surface starches do free themselves from the noodle, which is why pasta water becomes cloudy. If your pasta water is boiling rapidly, the starches in the water can link up enough to inflate with steam and become bubbles. If those bubbles go unchecked, the water can boil over the top of your pot.
What can you do to prevent this from happening? First, use the right pot.
A low-walled pot must be filled close to the brim to accommodate both your pasta and the water in which to boil it. If you only have one inch of “headspace,” it can easily be overwhelmed with starchy foam. A taller stockpot or pasta pot is best for pasta cookery for two reasons: it allows room for the boiling water to rise without going over the top and it allows for enough water to be present to dilute the starches. If the starches in the water are more dilute, they will have a harder time forming foam structures, and the foam they do form will be weaker and easier to break up.
“It’s generally recommended that pasta be cooked in 10 or more times its weight of vigorously boiling water (around 5 quarts or liters water per pound/500 gm).”—Mcgee, pp. 575–576
Incidentally, the longer the pasta cooks, the more starches are leeched into the water. By draining the pasta as soon as it is done (see below), you prevent higher concentrations of starch from entering the water. Overcooked pasta is more likely to boil over.
Another way to prevent boil-overs is to add a small glug of oil to the water. The oil breaks up the surface tension of the water, causing the bubbles to disperse. Some will argue that oil can form a slick on the surface of the noodles that will later prevent sauce adhesion, and this is a valid argument. But depending on your final preparation, that may not be a problem.
One older, tried-and-true method for preventing a boil-over is to lay a wooden spoon across the top of your pot as you cook. The spoon literally pops the bubbles as they rise, and can help prevent a boil over.
Aside from using a big enough pot with enough water, though, one of the most important ways to prevent pasta from boiling over is to never put a lid on your pasta. Here’s why:
There is a thermodynamic principle called the “ideal gas law,” that you may have forgotten about since high school physics. And it says that the pressure times the volume of a gas is proportional to the amount of the gas multiplied by its temperature and a known constant:
P is pressure, V is volume, n is the number of molecules in the system, R is the ideal gas constant and T is temperature. Because of their proportional nature, if one variable on one side of the equation increases, there must be an equivalent increase in a variable on the other side. So if the temperature of a system increases without the number of molecules shrinking, then either the pressure or the volume of the system must also increase.
In a pasta water bubble, the pressure remains fairly constant (starch bubbles aren’t known for their ability to handle increased pressures). So if the temperature increases, it’s going to be the volume that increases or, more importantly, if the temperature decreases, then the volume must decrease.
We boiled two identical pots of pasta, one with the lid on, one with the lid off, tracking temperatures in and just above the surface of the water using a ChefAlarm® with optional waterproof needle probe in the water and a Thermapen® over the surface. While the water temperatures in both pots followed the same heating and cooling curves, the temperatures of the air above the water were vastly different. The lidded pasta had an air temp of 204°F (96°C)—the boiling point of water at ThermoWorks HQ (see our Boiling Point Calculator)—while the air just above the surface in the uncovered pan fluctuated between 145–163°F (63–73°C).
When steam bubbles at 204°F (96°C) were met with much cooler 145–163°F (63–73°C) air, they cooled, and a decreasing T meant a correspondingly decreasing V. The cool air shrinks the bubbles. But if the steam bubbles find an environment beyond their walls that is the same as that within their walls, they can grow and build on each other without any thermal hindrance. Every time I use a lid, my pasta boils over; but if I leave the lid off, it is rarely a problem.
Clumping in pasta is caused by improper treatment of the noodles, especially in the first seconds of cooking. When the starches start to gelatinize as soon as the pasta hits the water, the surfaces can absorb all that lies between them. Noodles will have nothing left between them to lubricate them, and the starches will act as glue sticking them together. To prevent this, be sure to use enough water so that the noodles can have room, but also be sure to stir the pasta for the first minute or so in the water. This will allow water to flow evenly around the individual noodles and for gelation to begin without getting gluey. This is another reason for always adding your pasta to water that is already rapidly boiling: the active water agitates the noodles and moves them apart from each other.
- Avoid stirring the boiling pasta with a metal spoon because the metal can heat up and make it difficult to hold.
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- Always wear oven mitts and use caution when you drain the pasta into the colander. Hot water could splash you and cause burns. Try and empty the pasta gently and slowly.
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