Good morning and welcome to today’s Seminars@Hadley. I’m Dawn Turco and I will be moderating today’s seminar which we’ve entitled Use Your Noodle. Whether you call it noodles or pasta, macaroni, ramen or udon, everyone loves to eat this very versatile food staple. I Love Pasta, the national website for the National Pasta Association – and yes, we have a National Pasta Association – they say that there are over 600 different shapes and sizes. I read elsewhere that there are hundreds of recipes and I want to say that I’m adjusting that to say there must be hundreds of thousands of ways to prepare it when you consider its global appeal. Pasta existed for thousands of years before anyone even thought to add tomato sauce to it.
How much do we really know about pasta or noodles? The average person in Italy is said to eat about 51 lbs. of pasta every year. North America – well I saw the figure of 15 lbs. of pasta every year for North America and I’m guessing I’m somewhere in the middle cause I do love it.
Today’s seminar is all about this yummy food favorite. We’ve got a little history lesson coming; we’re going to cover tips for cooking, eating and storing it; we’ll discuss fresh and dried varieties and I think we will even cover playing with it. Yes, there are non-edible uses.
I’ll get us started today before introducing our presenters and what I want to do is do a little quiz and some of you are familiar with how we do that. So get ready – you’re going to answer A, B, C or D into the text window and then press enter. And here’s your quiz question. Who is credited with introducing macaroni to the United States? And your choices are A – Thomas Jefferson; B – Emanuel Ronzoni; C – Benjamin Franklin or D – Guiseppe Garabaldi.
So go ahead. I see we’re going to get started. We’ve got some bold people. A, B, C or D – Thomas Jefferson, Emmanuel Ronzoni, Benjamin Franklin or Guiseppe Garabaldi? Alright, I’m gonna give you the answer. Thomas Jefferson has just gone up a notch in my appeal, I’ll tell you. It seems that Jefferson fell in love with certain pasta dishes when he sampled them on a trip to Naples, Italy while he was serving as the U.S. Minister to France and this was back in 1785-89-ish. He promptly ordered crates of macaroni along with a pasta-making machine sent back to the U.S. So yay, Thomas Jefferson.
Now I’ll move on. Today’s presenters are Linn Sorge and Jennifer Ottowitz and both are instructors at Hadley and both have presented in a Seminars@Hadley room and often on the topic of cooking, which we enjoy these topics. So I am going to turn the microphone over first to Jennifer who is going to give us a bit of a history on noodles or pasta. So here you go, Jennifer.
Thank you, Dawn, and welcome everyone. Not only is pasta a very versatile and economical food, it actually has a very interesting history. There are a lot of claims as to when and where pasta was invented but the exact beginnings of pasta are a little unclear. The Chinese are credited with being the first to make egg noodles, as well as the first to make noodles or pasta from rice flour as early as 5000 B.C. But the Italians claim that the Etruscans first made pasta from a combination of semolina flour and water as early as 400 B.C. Now there are some claims that Marco Polo brought pasta from China back to Italy but historical evidence proves this untrue. He may have brought pasta that was made with rice flour, as well as the idea of stuffed pasta back to Italy, but the Italians were already making and eating plenty of pasta by the time he returned.
Now the Arabs are actually credited with making the first dried pasta. And this was easy to store and traveled well so it was carried on many long journeys, then boiled. And Dawn mentioned about how Thomas Jefferson introduced macaroni to America, which I love that story too. And as Dawn mentioned as well, tomato sauce was not widely used with pasta until later on. In fact, one of the first documented recipes for tomato sauce dates back to 1839 which I was a little surprised to learn.
Now we do have some other fun facts about the history of pasta included in our resource list which will be available on the website following the seminar and we’ll share more information about how to access that resource later on. So at this point, I’d like to turn the microphone over to Linn who’s going to share some information about all the many different sizes, shapes and types of pasta.
Good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here. One of the things I find most fun about doing these cooking or baking seminars is that it prompts us to try certain things. We’ve been writing each other back and forth saying, “Oh, I made this pasta yesterday; I made that pasta yesterday.” So it gives us a little extra motivation and a few more of those pounds, not for pasta, but probably around our hips and middle.
There are so many shapes, sizes and kinds of pasta and noodles and I just thought I would go through some of them and they’ll feel familiar to some of you and explain a little bit about the differences.
Egg noodles, as Jen said, they originated in China. They are made with unleavened dough and they’re cooked in boiling water and generally they are made with eggs and wheat or rice flour. Sometimes they put tapioca in to add a little bit of texture and uniformity to the strands of the pasta. Most of the time the egg noodles batter is made and allowed to dry for a period of time before you actually use it to prepare a specific dish. I like to do this a lot; it just seems to make it better.
Sometimes you can get in the refrigerator area of your supermarket something they will claim are homemade noodles or homemade egg noodles or often at a farmer’s market. And I will usually take them out of their package and spread them out on a cookie sheet and let them really dry before I use them. I like a cookie sheet because that way they’re contained and not all over your counter so that if you need the counter space for something else and you’re wanting them to dry, you can pick up that sheet and put it elsewhere. And stir it around a little bit every now and then to make sure all surfaces get dry.
There are many varieties of egg noodles and the sizes vary from country to country. They’re typically long, flat strips of dough. The Chinese and Japanese noodles tend to be long, wide, flat strips but the German variety tends to be shorter, smaller and thicker. The true origin of pasta, as Jen was saying, is not certain but it is also made of unleavened semolina dough of either wheat or buckwheat and it’s cooked in boiling water.
In some cases if it’s pasta, vegetables are added to the dough so you’ll hear people talk about green noodles, you know, if it has spinach in it or something. Kids tend to like it if they will eat that kind of noodles because it’s fun to have the different colors.
Unlike the egg noodles that are flat, pastas come in various lengths, sizes and shapes and I think those are such good fun. Many times pastas are filled with meat, cheeses or other veggies and they’re served with sauce. Some of the shapes include spaghetti, angel hair and angel hair is very long but very fine pasta and it tends to tangle up more easily, at least many of us think it does. It cooks very quickly because it’s so fine.
Macaroni – you can have shells or tubes. Lasagna – those are big, flat noodles with kind of crinkles all along the edges. And there are things such as bow ties and rigatoni and they’re hollow tubes. There are categories of pasta – long-form pasta or strand pasta. That’s anything spaghetti-like that you can twist around your fork when you eat it if that’s what you like to do. They’re made in various widths and the thinnest is angel hair and then you go to spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini and if you use spaghetti, they even have what is called thin spaghetti but it’s not quite as fine as angel hair.
They can be round or flat, solid or hollow. Ribbon pasta is a sub-category of this and just think of all these different things you would see on the shelves. There are flat cuts – fettuccini is one of them; linguini so they’re the more famous ones.
Short-form pasta – it has several ways of it being – tubular from tiny to jumbo, smooth or ridged, straight cut or diagonally cut. That means the ends will either be just flatly cut or at an angle. I like the ridged kind often because the sauce will cling to it better and it’s not so slippery when you’re going to attempt to eat it.
And some of the reasons for different names is whether it is straight-cut or diagonally-cut. Then you have elbows like macaroni – many, many brands. Shaped pasta are some that are my favorites. There are bow ties, corkscrews, wagon wheels – all those different things. And sometimes it’s fun if you’re going to have a pasta kind of celebration is to make sure you get several different shapes when you’re doing it and that way everybody can know that this alfredo has wagon wheels and this one is done with hollow tubes. So it’s great fun to do.
There are truly hundreds of varieties. Stuffed pasta – this takes a little more time to make but it’s really nice – ravioli, tortellini – that kind of thing. You can get little ravioli makers that they’re little tiny… you’d almost think they were an odd-looking muffin tin and they have little square indentations in them and you roll out your ravioli dough and press it down in there. And then there’s kind of a lid that goes over it. So first you fill it with your stuff and you put another layer of dough on top and then you press this lid firmly down and it covers it up but it also makes all the little crinkly edges around all these squares of ravioli.
So now that you’ve learned about all the different – not all but lots of the different kinds, I’m going to give this back to Jen and she’s going to tell you how to cook most of it or at least lots of it.
Thanks, Linn. One of the first tips for cooking good pasta is to be sure that you’re using enough water. You should use 4 to 6 quarts of water for every pound of dried pasta and that equals about one quart of water for every one-fourth pound. And it’s important to use a pot that’s large enough to hold all that water because using this large quantity of water will allow enough room for the pasta to expand while it cooks and to help keep the pasta from sticking together.
Now to help season your pasta and to enhance the flavor, you can add salt – anywhere from one teaspoon to one tablespoon, depending on how much pasta you’re making. And you can use kosher or sea salt to further bring out the flavor of the pasta but when you use those types of salts, be sure to use less than what you would use if you were using table salt.
You can add the salt to the water before you bring it to a boil and you can also all one tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil. Now some people disagree with the idea of adding oil to their pasta but I like doing it for two reasons. First of all, it can help, again, to keep the pasta from sticking together, but more importantly, it helps prevent boil-overs when the water in the pot boils over the top and creates a nice mess on your stove. The oil can actually help prevent that.
Whenever you bring your water to a rapid boil, you want to add your pasta and be sure to stir right away. That’s very important to help keep it from sticking. Some people like to break up their pasta if it’s the long-strand pasta when they first add it and some people are hard and fast against doing that, so there’s some differences of opinion there.
You want to bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally. And by stirring every now and then, you’re going to help insure even cooking of the pasta and help to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. You want to cook the pasta for the recommended amount of time and this varies depending on the type of pasta that you’re using, generally anywhere from 8 minutes to 12 minutes. And I believe we’re going to include a resource with a list of the different pastas and the recommended cooking times on the website as well.
Now if you are going to use the pasta in another dish – something like lasagna or a casserole where it’s going to bake after you boil it, then you want to reduce the cooking time by about one-third of the recommended time because it will continue cooking in the oven.
And a few minutes before the recommended cooking time is up, you want to take out a piece of pasta to taste test it for doneness. And perfectly cooked pasta should be al dente which means “hard to the tooth” or “firm to the touch.” But it should be cooked through. You want to drain the pasta immediately and continue following the recipe because hot cooked pasta will continue the cooking process.
Now the question often is to rinse or not to rinse and you should only rinse pasta if you’re going to serve it cold like in a pasta salad, if you’re going to continue baking it like in a lasagna or if you’re going to sauce it later on – you’re not going to sauce it right away. Because what happens when you rinse the pasta in cold water and then let it drain thoroughly, it actually removes some of the surface starch which helps the sauce cling better to the pasta. So only rinse under those three conditions.
And another tip is to not over-sauce your pasta. The pasta has good flavor so you want that to shine through. A general rule is if it’s a thicker type of pasta, you use a thicker sauce; if it’s a thinner type of pasta like angel hair, then you would use a thinner sauce.
Now there are also some adapted techniques that can help when you’re cooking pasta, as well as some adapted devices. And first when it comes to setting the temperature on the stovetop, you want to be very careful not to lean over the stovetop to see the back of the stove when you’re setting the temperature, especially if you have food cooking on the stovetop.
So there are a variety of different items you can use to make nice high contrast tactual markings that you can both see and feel to help you set the temperature properly. And we included in the resource list again different companies who sell these types of products and again there are a wide variety of them.
When it comes to timing the cooking of your pasta, there are lots of types of adapted timers. There are some that are low vision – they have large numbers and good contrast - they’re very easy to see; some that talk and some that are tactual. Now when I’m cooking pasta I generally like to use a digital timer because it can help me get the time a little more exact. Sometimes people will use the timer setting on their microwave for this but they also make nice low-vision and talking digital timers as well.
A general stovetop safety tip is that if your pot has a long handle, you do not want the handle to hang over the front of the stove and I personally do not even like it hanging over the side of the stove. I like to have my pan situated on the burner so that the handle is either at the 2 o’clock or the 10 o’clock position and that helps me locate it easily and helps it stay out of the way when I’m working around the stovetop area so I don’t bump it by accident.
Now when I stir, I do like to rotate it so that the handle is down to the 3 or 9 o’clock position because I’m more comfortable stirring that way but when I’m finished, I rotate it so that the handle is back in what I call the safe position.
When it comes to centering or re-centering your pot on the stove, especially if the burner is already hot – maybe you’ve drained the water but you want to return the pot to the stove and the stove is already hot – you can actually use a wooden spoon to trace the outline of your burner and to help identify if the pot is hanging over the edge in any way. And if any of you have a flat top stove where the burners are kind of flat and flush with the surface, there are different ways to put heat-resistant tactile markings on the stove to help you use that wooden spoon to center or re-center that pot correctly and safely.
Now when it comes to draining your pasta, a really nice device or item is a pasta pot and this is also sometimes called a lock lid pot or a drain – I forget that word now; it’s escaping me – but lock and drain lid pot. These come in lots of different sizes and what they are is it’s a regular pot but the lid has small holes in it and when you put it on you can turn it to lock it in position so that when it’s time to drain the pasta, and you can use it for other things like potatoes or even to drain grease off of meat, but when you go to drain it, you simply take the pot – lid and all – over to the sink and you tip it and the water drains out the holes but the pasta stays inside the pot.
If you do have a pasta pot, I recommend that you practice using it without anything in it. Practice putting on the lid, turning it, locking it into position, carrying it over to the sink and practice pretending to drain because the one thing you do not want to have happen is when you have that nice heavy pot full of water and pasta, if you think you’ve locked the lid, you go to drain and the lid falls off and everything falls in the sink. So a little practice can help just make sure that you’re locking that lid on correctly.
If you do not have a pasta pot you can still just use the regular pot and drain your pasta into a colander. You can put the colander into the bottom of an empty sink and if it’s a two-sided sink, I also like to swing the faucet out of the way so that I don’t bump it by accident. And depending on the slope on the bottom of your sink and the stability of your colander, some people like to put the colander in the exact middle of the sink; some people like to put it more in the corners, one of the corners that is farther away from you. And when you do drain, whether you’re using the pasta pot or a regular pot, always make sure to tilt the pan so that the contents pour out away from you and that’ll help keep the steam from coming up into your face or to help keep the other contents – the water, the pasta – from splattering on you, so definitely be careful with draining.
Another tip too, I know that my arms are not always strong, especially when I’m carrying a large pot full of water and pasta. I have a tendency sometimes to want to rest the pot on the edge of the colander to help support it when I’m draining and this can cause the colander to tip over sideways and cause everything that would have gone into the colander to go into the sink as well, so be careful.
If you do have trouble with your strength in your arms, a pasta pot may be a better suggestion because again, you can just tip the whole thing and not have to worry. It’s still heavy but it can help make things be a little bit safer for you.
So those are just a few tips and we’ll have some time in a little bit for some Q&A to learn maybe some more tips that you all may have. But now I’d like to turn the microphone back to Linn who’s going to share some tips for serving pasta.
One other tip I like is some colanders have little feet. They might have three feet, four feet. I hate them because if one of those feet gets down into the draining area of your sink, it will cause it to tip or be unlevel. So if you’re buying a colander, some of them have really nice rings that go all the way around underneath them and I think they’re a lot safer. But that’s just me.
Serving pasta – I am going to sort of reemphasize a bit of what Jen said. If you’re going to make spaghetti or a pasta that you’re going to eat right then and there, serve it immediately. That means that it’s not one of the things you think, “Oh I’m going to prepare this just a little ahead so I have time to get the French bread out and get the…” No, you have to get the pasta off your stove and serve it immediately because it’ll keep cooking or it can also kind of get a little sticky or together… stick together a little bit, or gummy. So the sooner you can serve it once it’s off the stove and drained, the better.
If you’re putting it on a platter, then it’s really nice to warm the platter first. It is that with many, many foods but with pasta, it gets cold very quickly. So either put your platter or big bowl and fill it with hot water and then dry it out and then put your pasta in it; just get it a little warm. You can also add some olive oil or butter to the drained pasta just before you put the sauce over it. This will again help the sticking together not to happen.
If you’re using parmesan cheese which many of us love, you put some on before you toss the pasta with it, but then it’s also very nice to have it at the table, either in a shaker or a bowl with a nice little serving spoon. The really best kind is to have it when you grate it fresh or sometimes if you’re going to use it a lot you can put it in the freezer and then just pull it out and get it warm before you’re going to use it.
You can serve pasta in large shallow bowls – this is my favorite way. They are called actually many times pasta bowls and many kinds of plates and dishware come with pasta bowls. I don’t like serving it on plates because firstly, it tends to fall off the edge and it may get tomato sauce on a tablecloth or placemat. If you’ve got it in a very shallow bowl, it will keep it in there and make it frankly for us easier to eat than chasing it all around on a plate, especially if you’re going to plop meatballs in it. If you have meatballs, putting it in a nice shallow pasta bowl makes them a lot easier to work with.
Also you can cut meatballs in half before they’re served. That way you’re not chasing the little balls all over the place because they will not roll so easily all over the noodles and the sauce.
Now how much pasta do you use per person? Jen told you about one pound of dry macaroni makes about 8 to 9 cups of cooked macaroni so that’s what you think about if you’re making a big salad. One pound of spaghetti or linguini yields 7 cups, 6 to 7 cups. One-fourth cup of dried pasta – that’s 4 ounces usually they say – per person. A pound package should provide four dinner-size servings.
I am not the real kosher “do it the Italian way,” especially if I’m with people at my house and trying to make a really nice dinner and all that. I will break the pasta up into smaller pieces, especially if it’s spaghetti or those really long… I don’t want to be at the table either trying to bite it off or slurp it in. If you just break it in little smaller pieces, if you’re totally blind you don’t have to contend with that nearly so much.
If you’re serving it as a side dish, a cup of dried pasta should do it per person. And the final cooked amount varies by shape and you’ll get to sense that as you get used to it. Spaghetti and macaroni – they can often double in value. Reading the package will help you or getting somebody to read it for you and then making note however you would do that.
And certain things don’t expand much at all – egg noodles are one. I remember I was making egg noodles to put for someone, a group two or three weeks ago when I was contemplating all of this stuff and oh my goodness – they didn’t get much bigger at all. So fresh pasta contains a lot of moisture and it doesn’t expand at all. So you have to up the amount per person that you’re going to use. And just before our little Q&A and commentary, Jennifer is going to give you a few quick tips on how to eat pasta.
Thanks, Linn. Before I get started with that I just wanted to make sure to mention that of course, when you are using fresh pasta, the cooking time is going to be a lot less than when you’re using dried pasta. So only maybe five minutes or so – depending on the type of pasta that you’re using. So you want to be sure to check the directions because fresh pasta will cook faster.
Now when it comes to eating, you may have already figured out that short-cut pasta is definitely easier to eat than long strands of pasta and I tend to prefer cooking with the short-cut pastas or the different shapes, things like corkscrews or I believe it’s called gemelli but it’s like a braid. They’re more interesting too. They kind of make your meals I think a little more fun.
But if you do eat the long-strand pasta like spaghetti or linguini, it is logical to cut it into small pieces if you have not already broken it up in the pot. And I’m like Linn – I kind of think when you’re blind or visually impaired, that is really helpful. But if you want to be true to the Italian way and leave it long, then one way to do it, while you might be inclined to cut it up, that’s actually not very Italian though, so again, if you really want to be true to those Italian ways, there are two acceptable methods for eating pasta.
And the first is to take your fork and separate two to three strands of the pasta and twist it around your fork. Now it does not have to be tightly wound – there can be some strings hanging off – and you want to make sure to sit very close to the table, to lean over the place, to pop the pasta into your mouth and to bite off any long strings or strands that may be hanging over. The excess is just going to fall back onto your plate.
Now perhaps the more elegant method that’s acceptable in the Italian way is to use a fork and a soup spoon and you can separate two or three strands of the pasta with your fork and twist it around in the bowl of the spoon and then raise it to your mouth. Now just a couple other tips for eating. I always have extra napkins around when I’m eating pasta, just in case. And I try to – especially when I’m going out or eating with friends – I try to remember if it’s a red sauce not to wear a white shirt. So those are just a couple of tips for eating pasta. I’m going to turn the microphone over to Dawn now who’s going to lead us in a little bit of Q&A.
For sure. I do have Q&A but I wanted to just give my last tip for serving pasta because even with low vision, I have found whether it’s lasagna or a bowl of pasta when I’m serving it at the table with guests and I have a tablecloth, nine times out of 10, a little bit of the sauce goes over the edge or a piece of pasta falls off the serving spoon and it’s a bear to get out of a tablecloth. So I have some nice-looking, washable placemats that I used to put my serving dish on top of so that when that happens, it goes over the edge, I’m not panicking over trying to get it out. So it’s a silly tip but it has worked for me.
We actually had a question. I’m going to go ahead and I think I’ll address before the Q&A and Marie asked if it’s possible to cook pasta in electric cookers. I’m guessing by electric cookers maybe you mean a crockpot or a slow cooker. And of course, as we learned, rapidly boiling water is the best way to cook the pasta and it seems like that would be counterintuitive because low and slow doesn’t work. I have made many a crockpot recipe that includes noodles or pasta but it’s always cooked separately and added towards the end. So that’s my thought on that and when the microphone’s open, if anyone else has an idea, let me know.
Meanwhile I’ll do one question and then I’ll open the mic for your thoughts. Let me go with this one. In 18thCentury England, macaroni was synonymous with a) a dandy; b) simple and easy; c) someone in a lower class. So your choices are a, b and c – a being a dandy; b being simple and easy and c someone in a lower class. And Elizabeth, I see you jumped right in there. Your thoughts are going with “a”. Marie, we’ve got more a’s popping up. Anybody else? Okay, you’re a shy group. Let me give you the answer and of course, the answer is “a” – a dandy. That’s why Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni. Who knew? Okay, I’m opening the mic. Any questions?
Yes, I’ve got a few things that I’ve done and when I was in (Inaudible) for an independence training program for so long, I’ve always used a twirler for stirring the long strands and for serving I’ve always used a… tongs.
Good tips definitely. I also have that kind of spoon for stirring and for serving. I think if you put your palm upright and your fingers spread, it’s that spoon that has that kind of finger spread there, that will help grab the long-strand macaroni or pasta for sure, noodles. So open mic again.
Yes, I would like to know from you – would you recommend a specific type or make of pasta to make it more easier for visually impaired?
I think some of the, as Jen was saying, the shorter forms or shapes are easier because they’re not long and stringy. Elbow macaroni, bow ties, little hollow tube spiral noodles that are like a cork screw, wagon wheels – all those are a little easier to use. If you’re making a soup and want to dump noodles in, a lot of people love the long egg noodles but again, if you’re not wanting a lot of dripping and that kind of thing, you can put in elbow macaroni or little bitty bow ties, little wagon wheels – anything like that – and it is a little less messy to eat.
Also I’m with Dawn – I use placemats if I know that I’m going to have tomato sauce. I also am with Jen – I don’t wear a white shirt.
Yes, I was just wondering - what is the wagon wheel? I’ve never heard of that one. And another thing I would recommend – again, I was away for so long and at the end of my training I had a friend over my home and I was constantly stirring. She said, “You don’t need to constantly stir it; otherwise, it won’t be made right.” And so I just let it sit for a while and then kept doing it until… that way I knew I didn’t get those tough old twigs; I just got regular strands.
And then another thing I was doing – if you’re preparing a dish for someone, do it the evening before and again, while I was away for training, I had company coming; I would put it in a mixing bowl and put foil on top of it and then warm it up the day of.
I jumped in simply because – a wagon wheel – I can answer that one. If you envision either a wagon wheel, a bicycle tire – it’s round and it has spoke-like in the center so that’s why it resembles the wagon wheel. And in fact, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Italy a few times and one was actually for cooking class and it’s interesting to see that in Italy each region or area of Italy actually has their own shapes and whenever I’m over there, I buy up the local shape which oftentimes I prefer the smaller spoon-size or tubular versus the strands of pasta. So it’s just fun to see and indeed I’m thinking that’s how we’ve come up with over 600 sizes and shapes is there’s all the regional times global and you’ve got a lot of pasta shapes out there.
This is Jennifer and yeah, I wanted to add that we used to call the wagon wheels “choo-choo” wheels because they made us think of the wheels of a choo-choo train. And gnocchi, if I’m saying it properly, is another thing I’ve recently found that’s very easy to eat. They’re just like little dough balls and they’re made actually from potatoes and they’re actually very good, very easy to stab with a fork. They don’t tend to roll around so that’s another nice, easy pasta that I like to eat.
And then yes, of course, constantly stirring is not recommended when you’re boiling your pasta but occasionally stirring definitely is. And then just one other suggestion – just be careful whenever you’re storing things that have a lot of tomato sauce. If you put aluminum foil on top of them, sometimes the acid from the tomato sauce can interact with the aluminum foil and cause some problems. So generally there’s cheese on top or something so that the foil is not in direct contact with the tomato sauce, but if you’re storing pasta in the refrigerator, you may want to use plastic wrap instead of aluminum foil on the bowl or the pan. So just a suggestion.
That’s a great tip, Jen. I hadn’t thought about the aluminum foil interaction there. In fact, there’s also remember microwaveable plastic wrap if you intend to have leftovers at all in your microwave. It’s always recommended that you not use the standard plastic wrap.
And you mentioned gnocchi. I have to tell you the cooking class I went to was on the Amalfi Coast of Italy and they replace the potato in gnocchi with ricotta cheese and it’s a nice change. And if you think you want to experiment with perhaps the first time you ever make fresh pasta, that is a great place to start because you don’t need any sort of pasta roller. It goes into little balls and there’s a technique with the thumb for making the traditional shape. But it’s a great way to start with homemade pasta. And while I’m not always in the mood to do homemade, it is… I can’t even tell you how much better than the dry variety.
Oh, another thing I recommend is – shoot! Gosh darn it – my mind went blank. Sorry. Okay, another thing that I would recommend is usually I’ll do the frozen meatballs which I don’t like the taste of anyway; I just do it cause it’s easiest and I put them on a cookie sheet and then I get – when I’m doing the parmesan – I use the regular can, the store-bought containers and that has to stay cool.
I have a question about cooking. Recently I made some pasta and it came out kind of rubber and chewy. Does that mean I cooked it too long or not long enough?
I think that’s not long enough. You know what – another thing that I’ve noticed – I’ve actually had the same situation where I’ve had it too long… not long enough; I’ve come up with little twigs myself.
I agree with you on that one. It’s probably too long and so that brings up a good subject of really watching that timer and doing that check that Jen talked about a little bit early so that you don’t either have it too al dente or quite the reverse. It can turn into one massive glob of gook in your pot if you overcook it and nobody wants to go there. Grab the microphone because I’m watching the clock and I want to turn it back over to Linn. I think you’re next on our program today. So here you go.
Yes, and when you test it, something that people always ask me is, “How do you do that?” I use a slotted spoon and I just try to scoop up one piece or two – whatever – and then you can just put a little plate under your spoon and tip it onto a plate and bring it over to you. And then I blow on it. I’m the one that’s gonna eat it to test it so I think that really helps. A slotted spoon and then just drop it into a little sauce dish or custard cup – something like that – and that way you can tell how it’s doing.
I’m going to talk to you about storing pasta which will also address something that was just said. If you’re cooking pasta, you’re going to want it in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days. But something you need to think about – if you’re going to cook ahead, pasta absorbs sauces and flavors. So if you’re going to prepare it a day ahead or an evening ahead, you probably are going to need to add more sauce and then make sure to stir it up thoroughly because your noodles are going to soak that up.
Again, you can add a little bit of oil to help keep the pasta from sticking together but remember, it will absorb. When I make spaghetti and have leftovers, the next day it is not as moist so you really want to add something more, even just add a little water or something to do that.
I tend to use Tupperware or Lock & Lock containers to store, as Jen was saying. That way everything’s plastic. If you’re going to store your uncooked, dry pasta, you can do that in a cupboard, again in plastic containers or in their boxes. I tend to use Tupperware – I think they’re really called cereal containers – and I have three or four of them for the main pastas that I keep all the time.
Also you can get tall, skinny round jars or square jars with an airtight seal to store strand pasta like spaghetti or linguini. You can store egg pastas that are dried for about a year; non-egg you can store up to two years. But I suggest that you do this first and first out rule which means let’s say you’ve got four boxes of quick and easy mac & cheese in your cupboard. Use the one you bought the earliest first – that way you keep rotating the pastas.
Freezing pasta – best pasta shapes for doing that are used in baked recipes such as lasagna – jumbo shells, macaroni, manicotti – and you’ll have better results if you prepare the recipe and freeze it before you do the final baking. I have a baked spaghetti recipe and I prepare it all and I also do a lasagna the same way. I get it all ready and that you can do early on, and then put it in your oven right before it’s time to serve it. So you’re going to thaw the dish to room temperature and then bake according to the directions.
And those are tips that I use for thawing and I’m going to do a switch on us here just because of time. I was the one that was going to talk about non-edible uses for pasta. I imagine there are several of us here who perhaps work with youngsters or love crafting. You can do wonderful things with little shapes, little bow ties, elbows, spiral noodles, wagon wheels, braids that Jennifer was talking about.
And you can cover boxes and then have somebody – or you can – spray paint them if you wish and have little trinket boxes. And you can also put a candle in the middle of a round base – if it’s round or square – flat plaque and just stick it down with a little stick pack to hold it in the middle and then you can create decorative stuff around it – little different shapes of bow ties. Kids love to do this and it’s a great way to use pasta of all different shapes and sizes. You can also do this around picture frames if you’d also like to do that.
If you have little ones you can do sorting of shapes and sizes. Get out a muffin tin with perhaps six or 12 and then can sort shapes and sizes. And my favorite thing is making rhythm instruments. You can use small plastic water bottles that have been cleaned and dried or small little cans that you might have gotten for orange juice or tomato juice and you glue cardboard over the ends of those and you can put various things in them. And if it’s a water bottle you can glue the top on so the kiddos can’t get it off. Put your glue on and then screw the thing down tightly.
You can also decorate the outsides of these things if you want with anything – little stickers or… But it’s fun. You’ll be amazed at the different sounds you can get, depending on the amount of pasta you put in there, the kind of pasta you put in there. Just like you can use beans or peas – dried peas – that kind of thing. But you have to make really, really sure that they’re glued shut so the kiddos can’t get them.
I like water bottles for little hands because they can hold them somewhat like a maraca just by holding the top in that way or they can roll them right along the bottle or the can. So if you want something to do with kids or in some sort of recreational activity, you can try candle holders, covering boxes, picture frames and rhythm instruments. And then if you’ve got little ones, they can sort.
Thank you, Linn. The classroom teachers and grandparents I think in the group are going to love playing with some of those ideas. We are coming close to the end so I just want to jump in and you’ve heard us mention the resource list a couple times and we will get I posted, along with the recording of this seminar in just a couple days.
I’ll hold it just in case any participant wants to send in one of their favorite noodle or pasta recipes. We got two already sent in from participants on the notice of today’s seminar and we’ve added some of our own. I have one on there for all’Arrabbiata which means “angry,” a favorite of my husband’s since he likes a little more spice. It’s got a little spice into it so if you’re interested in something a little different, take a look at the resource list.
We also have websites that we’ve gotten our information from. Some of the facts and history pieces are on there. Jennifer sent in a list of some of the aids and appliance websites where you can get some of the specific tube pasta noodle cooking small gadgets and kitchen aids, so those are on there as well. I think I’ve covered most of the resource list.
So anyway, that will be posted with the recording as we get those onto the past seminars page. If you have other feedback there is an email address – email@example.com. You are welcome to use that at any time. I just want to hand the microphone… First let me just open it up – final to participants cause you’ve gotten some good comments on here under the text messaging. Thanks, Alice, for some of those fun shapes. If you have a final comment, go ahead and add it and otherwise, we’ll go to our presenters for a final thought for today and we’ll close out. So here you go, participants.
Yes, I also put a thing in the text window. I will use my telephone as a timer for making almost anything and – please excuse me for that – that’s my alarm clock going off. I’ll use my telephone as a timer for making at least anything.
I just wanted to add that Jen is right – there is a list. As Dawn said there are hundreds of pastas but there is a list on our resource list that gives some of the more common ones and a little bit about what they look like and their cooking times, very general cooking times.
Another thing I want to tell you – I had said this at the beginning for some of you that were early – there’s a participant named Kathy and she has a wonderful macaroni & cheese recipe that she submitted. I can testify to it; I’ve eaten it. But the fun thing is it was really submitted by request from us from her 99-year-old mother, Lucy, and it’s Lucy’s recipe. So let me tell you – if it’s from a 99-year-old lady, it’s tried and true.
Hi, this is Sheila. I have a question. I’ve been places before and we’ve had salads and pasta dishes and they’ve been made with super-duper tiny round pasta that almost reminds me of tapioca or something like that. What is the name of that pasta? It looks kind of like… I say tapioca or rice or something. If anybody has an idea what that’s called, I’d like to know.
Isn’t that couscous?
Couscous is kind of sandy in texture, at least to me, so I don’t know if that’s what it was. Orzo is another type of tiny pasta. I think they look like little ears. And there’s another one that looks like tiny little teeth – I think it’s called ditalini – is another one so it kind of depends on the texture too. But yeah, couscous is definitely very small, kind of grainy in texture.
Ladies, would you like to say your farewells and I’ll get ready to launch the survey.
Yeah, I just want to say thanks everyone for letting me come. I really did get a lot of this and I’m just really pleased that I got to attend.
Well thank you and thank you to everybody for joining us. I think pasta is one of those wonderful foods that because of so many shapes and so many sizes, if you know how to cook pasta, boil pasta, you can eat for a lifetime. So enjoy all your pasta creations.
Jennifer made me smile. That is so true. Also it’s not really expensive. You can perk it up with shrimp or crab or lobster or meatballs. And I do have a frozen meatball I like done by Schwan’s. But you can eat it somewhat economically. If you want to do a sort of halfway homemade, go get yourself some really good spaghetti sauce – Prego, Ragu or whatever – and then you can experiment with all sorts of things and pastas and not have to make the sauce from scratch.
It’s always a pleasure to do the cooking and baking seminars for me. It’s a little bit of a switch from my teaching of music and tech stuff and when we do it at 10:00 Central Time, it makes me want to go have pasta for lunch today. So I think I’ll make baked spaghetti for supper. Thanks to each of you for coming and sharing with us and have a great day and as Jen says, “Eat pasta.”
Thank you, ladies. I so enjoy these as well and both Jennifer and Linn jumped at the topic today when I sent it out. So thank you for all of the information you shared. Thank you, participants, for coming to the seminar today. If you want to revisit it, again it’s in the Past Seminars area of the Hadley website so you can always go back and listen again or recommend it to others. We get quite a bit of traffic on those past seminars so thank you for doing that.
And as I mentioned before we got going, there is a photo of chicken soup on my screen which is exactly what I tend to go nurse my cold with when we sign off so thank you all and farewell.