Pasta Tips and tricks
Ever the mothering mother, I have even more tips for those who are new to the pasta-cooking game:
• Have all your ingredients and cooking equipment ready before you start.
• Use a large pot to boil the water; salt the pasta water well (it should taste like the sea) for even cooking and final flavor.
• Balance the quantity of sauce or toppings to pasta — resist the urge to add too much pasta. A general guideline for 3 or 4 servings: 2 cups tomato or cream sauce or 4 cups chunky toppings to 8 ounces of uncooked pasta.
• Use good-tasting olive oil, it's part of the final flavor of the dish.
• For the toppings or sauce, work in a nonstick pan for easy cleanup.
• The toppings can be assembled 30 minutes in advance, but make sure everyone is ready for dinner before you start cooking the pasta.
• Taste to test for doneness; it should be toothsome but tender.
• Have the colander ready in the sink for draining the pasta.
Here are some more combinations to toss with cooked pasta:
• Cooked green vegetables such as sautéed zucchini or diced green beans, feta chunks and pitted Kalamata olives.
• Canned chickpeas, diced bottled roasted peppers and shredded cheese.
• Diced peppered salami, sautéed radicchio and little lumps of cream cheese.
• Toasted breadcrumbs, nuts, garlic and hot pepper flakes.
• Small shrimp, sautéed onions and baby kale or spinach.
• Halved cherry tomatoes with refrigerated pesto.
• Shredded roast chicken, spicy salsa and diced queso fresco.
• Diced ham, cooked peas and butter and cheese.
JeanMarie Brownson, Chicago Tribune