Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cooking Tips 2: Italian

If you tried out our last meal idea and found it deliciously satisfying, then we're pleased to bring you the second installment in the food series. This time, your honey gets to eat a phenomenal Italian dinner, and this one truly could not be easier.

The first step to the perfect Italian dinner is the pasta. Choose a pasta based on what kind of sauce you're going to have, because although they all taste the same, different shapes "hold" different sauces better. For thinner sauces, such as regular old tomato sauce, linguini or spaghetti are good choices. For a thicker sauce you'll need a noodle that will stand up to it, such as fettuccini for an alfredo or penne. Comment for particular pairings if you're confused. For this example I suggest a filled pasta, such as Barilla's Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni. Sounds fabulous, doesn't it?

The next step is to cook the pasta until it is al dente, which translates as "to the tooth". Now, being an Italian, I tend to be somewhat elitist over foods, but the brand of pasta truly does make a difference. Brand X pasta tends to be difficult to cook well, so you're better off going with a Barilla pasta. It says on the box that it always cooks al dente, and it's pretty much true. Fill a pot about halfway with water and add a sprinkle of salt, and get it to a rolling boil. This means lots of big bubbles, not just a bunch of little ones. Throw your pasta in and stir, stir, stir! If you stop stirring, your noodles may clump together, so don't stop unless they seem to be stirring themselves (once the water starts boiling again). My mom can tell pasta is done by the color, but I say taste it. Does it feel hard? If so, cook it longer. If the pasta is mushy, you've overcooked it. It will usually take 10 minutes for pasta to cook, so use that as a guide. Remember - pasta will keep cooking once you've strained it, so either cook it less or run cool water for a couple of seconds over the noodles to stop them from cooking too much.

Now for the perfect sauce - which need only be combined and nuked for a few minutes before serving. A vegetable pasta goes quite well with a vegetable sauce, so I chose Barilla's Sugo alla Genovese (sauce from Genoa). It's tomato-based, but has nuts and parmesan for something different. Barilla's restaurant-style sauces are excellent. They are not your typical marinara and are painfully easy to make. Pour the sauce over the pasta and you have a fantastic meal. And when you serve it, make sure you call it by it's fancy name - Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni con Sugo alla Genovese. That way you'll sound like a professional chef, and not like your dinner came out of a bag/jar.