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What’s the Best Way to Cook Pasta?

Listen: Pasta is delicious. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. “I LOVE PASTA! I mean … How could you not? I’m actually recording this from a bathtub
full of cooked noodles right now. So. Anyway. Only three ingredients go into this delectable
dish: eggs, water and flour. That gives you two main chemical components:
starches, which are carbohydrates and proteins. There’s some minerals and vitamins there
too. Also, water. The type of flour is important. Pasta uses durum wheat, which is one of the
harder varieties of wheat out there. That makes it harder to mill, which means
after it’s ground up the particles of Semolina flour are not as fine as the all purpose flour
you have in your kitchen. Since it results in larger particles not all
of the proteins that are in the grain are released. That means that pasta dough is stretchy but
not sticky like bread or cookies. Pasta dough’s stretchiness makes it easier
to flatten into sheets and cut into shapes. These days, a lot of pasta gets made by extrusion:
forcing the dough through shaped holes. Kind of like play-doh, except that you’re
actually supposed to eat the pasta. At the microscopic level, pasta dough is a
network of proteins holding together starch particles that make for an overall springy
mass. The cooking process is all about manipulating
the protein and the starch interactions to get that perfect al dente pasta. As the pasta cooks, starch particles absorb
water and start to form a gel, which makes the pasta soft and gummy. Thanks to that tangled network of proteins,
the starches are trapped inside the pasta noodles. If there wasn’t enough protein in your pasta
dough, starches like amylose would leak out, making your fettuccine sticky and clumpy. Some carbohydrates leak out no matter what. If you’ve ever forgotten to stir your pasta,
you might have found yourself trying to eat a single clump of noodles. It’s one reason cooks like to keep their
pot at a rolling boil, so the pasta pieces keep moving and don’t stick to each other. Now the question of should I add something
to the water. Top chefs like Lidia Bastianich or Alton Brown
insist on not adding oil to the pasta water. They contend that it leaves a sheen on the
pasta and the sauce won’t stick. That said … other celeb chefs like Gordon
Ramsay insist on adding oil, saying it keeps the pasta from sticking together. Food scientists we’ve spoken to think most
of any oil you put in the pot will be washed away when you pour out the cooked pasta and
water. If any is left, it would not have any effect
on sauce stickiness. What you should add to pasta water is salt. Why? Salt is our main flavor enhancer and if you
were to enter a food competition without salt you wouldn’t last very long. Last pro-tip of your salted up pasta water:
before you drain your cooked spaghetti, add a ladle-ful of that salty, starchy water to
your sauce to help thicken and delishen it. When it comes to eating the cooked pasta the
gelatinous starch helps sauce stick to your cooked penne, and it’s why you should
avoid this classic mistake: Never rinse your pasta after it’s done cooking,
because you’re rinsing off that sticky starch. Okay, that’s it, I’m too hungry to keep
going. Let us know how your experiment with oil in
cooking water goes and if that sauce falls right off your noodle or not. While you’re doing that, our partners over at PBS Digital Studios are conducting a survey and they want to hear from you. Do you watch other PBS Digital shows? If so, which ones? How do you find new shows to watch? It takes about 10 minutes and you could even
win a sweet new t-shirt. You can find the link in the description below.Thanks for watching and see you next time!

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