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Surefire al dente

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Ever noticed that if you cook pasta “according to package instructions,” as many recipes indicate, you often wind up with overcooked pasta that’s a bit softer than the ideal toothsome al dente? I have a little tip (that I share with FC Test Kitchen Associate Allison Ehri Kreitler) for cooking pasta to al dente perfection: Always cook it 1 or 2 minutes less than the lowest time indicated on the box. Why? Because that cooking time yields a pasta that’s usually already on the soft side of al dente. Then, chances are you’ll be tossing the pasta with a warm sauce in a skillet, where it will continue to cook. You want to drain your pasta when it’s just shy of al dente to leave some wiggle room for that carryover cooking in the skillet.


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  • vega | 07/16/2009

    I will set my timer for 3 minutes less than the package suggests. I know it will be close then and I start tasting. I can usually tell just by looking at the pasta

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    LauraGiannatempo | 02/03/2009

    Hey there--Thanks for your comments. I agree that tasting is the ultimate test for donenes. But for those who like to have a time frame (and sometimes I find that useful if I'm doing other things and might forget about the boiling pasta), I find this useful. And of course, it's only for people who like their pasta al dente. If you like it softer, by all means cook it longer!

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