To enjoy pasta, even on a diet, it’s all about how it is cooked and limiting the size of your portion. Don’t discard it. The Mediterranean diet is considered the best diet today and it includes pasta.
The correct way to cook it is al dente, which means “to the tooth,” so that there is some firmness to the bite. Al dente pasta is lower on the glycemic index than soft, overcooked pasta – if pasta is cooked too long, more starch is released and the body breaks it down into glucose – meaning al dente pasta doesn’t spike blood sugar as rapidly.
Pasta and sauce should be made separately. I have tried recipes for one-pan pasta and I assure you that using two pans gives you a much better result. And it takes the same amount of time.
Sauces can made ahead of time, but cooking the pasta is a last-minute event. I was recently in Positano, Italy, and chef Vincenzo Esposito of Li Galli restaurant gave me a pasta cooking lesson.
First, in a large pot, bring at least three litres of water to a boil, then add 1½ tablespoons of Kosher salt or ¾ tablespoons regular salt. When the water returns to a rolling boil, add just enough pasta for each serving: 3 ounces or 80 grams per person is considered the right amount, but some people like more. Once the pasta is in the water, stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. Cook until almost al dente. It will feel undercooked. A visual cue that you’ve done this right is a little ring of white inside the pasta where you have bitten it. Another clue is the cooking time on the package. Cook for one minute less than the lesser amount of time.
Have your sauce simmering beside your pasta pot and, with tongs, take the pasta and toss it in the sauce. Add a cup or so of pasta-cooking water and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce. (It should be perfectly al dente after a minute or two.) This makes starches, fats and proteins confidently amalgamate together. Toss everything around, sprinkle some olive oil over and add grated cheese, if desired. Serve immediately. Pasta waits for no one.
Hungry for ooey, gooey baked pasta? Cook the pasta for about three minutes before tossing with the sauce and baking. It may seem raw, but it will be perfect after baking. Use larger thicker noodles, with ridged edges, so they don’t overcook, and the sauce has something to cling to. Avoid long noodles or fine pastas, which will become too soft. Toss in different cooked veggies (this is a good opportunity to use up leftovers), and finish with lots of cheese for the gooey texture.
For an Italian brand of pasta available in the supermarket, I like De Cecco, although many other (more expensive) brands are also good. Buy pasta that says “Made in Italy,” because it is more authentic. The pasta must be made with 100-per-cent durum wheat semolina, which is not always true here.
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