All over the world, the year 2020 marked the rediscovery of pasta, once again perceived as a diet staple, a comfort food par excellence, an irreplaceable element of a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle. According to a study by a multi-country study commissioned to DOXA by IPO, Unione Italiana Food and ITA Agency, analyzed the trend regarding pasta consumption during the lockdown in Italy, Germany, France, UK and the USA, which account for more than one third of the global pasta consumption. In 2020, it has been confirmed that pasta is a weekly, or even daily, pleasure all around the world. Almost all French (99%), German (98%) and English (95%) people eat it, as well as 9 Americans out of 10, which seems incredible if we consider that the USA are the homeland of high-protein diets. And more than the number of consumers, the most surprising element is the consumption frequency abroad: in all the studied countries, most people eat pasta 1 to 4 times a week, particularly 56% Americans, 85% French and 61% German people. 6 Americans out of 100 and 7 French people out of 100 even eat it every day.
This picture reveals that the pandemic changed the approach to pasta, we have devoted hundreds of social media conversations and photos to Spaghetti and Rigatoni, with almost 270,000 quotes over the past 6 months on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But some lack the simple basics, from cooking time to combining pasta types with sauces, maybe because they are so used to eating it every day, or because they belong to the 20% that openly state that they don’t know their way around the kitchen.
In response to this eagerness to learn more, IPO pasta makers and Unione Italiana Food are launching #PastaDiscovery, a cycle of virtual appointments dedicated to the ABC of pasta, for lifelong pasta lovers, for those who are rediscovering it and for absolute beginners in the kitchen. #PastaDiscovery will come to life in two separate online events over the course of the year, with heaps of multimedia content, to the history, the science and the culture of pasta.
ZUANELLI: “WE ARE ALL PASTA LOVERS, BUT THERE IS STILL A GREAT DESIRE TO LEARN AND DISCOVER” – “When we talk about food and especially pasta, our judgement is often subjective or biased,” explains Carl Zuanelli, President of International Pasta Organisation. “We do not have the audacity to teach people how to cook pasta, since they already know so much about it, but we have realized that some information is still unknown and that the younger generations, in particular, have a great desire to learn and do so with pleasure. Through Pasta Discovery we want to celebrate this rekindled love between people and pasta with a compendium of tips and instructions to help them prepare their favourite type, in the hope that they will look at Fusilli or Spaghetti with different eyes and take more pleasure in cooking and eating it. Because pasta, besides being delicious and healthy, is also a source of pleasure, joy and sociability.”
10 TIPS FROM WORLDWIDEPASTA MAKERS FOR HOW TO COOK PASTA PERFECTLY
- HOW MUCH WATER PER 100G OF PASTA? NOW LESS THAN 1 LITRE (WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS) – The right amount of water allows the pasta to cook evenly without sticking and with perfect saltiness. According to international chefs, every 100g of pasta needs a litre of water. Today, the quality of pasta is higher than it was 40 or 50 years ago and releases less starch during cooking, so we can cook our 100g of pasta in 0.7 litres of water… or even less if we are preparing a one-pot pasta dish, where the pasta is cooked risotto-style together with its condiment. And even the recipe tells us how much water we should use. Cooking the pasta in less water will concentrate the starch, which makes it combine better with the sauce.
- THE COOKING WATER: ALWAYS KEEP A LITTLE TO ONE SIDE – A ladle of cooking water should always be kept aside in case the pasta gets too dry or to help it combine with the sauce. But don’t forget, the remaining water can be reused even after it has served its “purpose”, e.g. for steaming or as a base for broths and soups. And again, “starchy” water is perfect for deep cleaning dishes and kitchen utensils, or once cooled, for watering plants… and even for a foot bath!
- NOTE THE TRANSPARENCY OF THE WATER – Is it opaque? Is it transparent? It depends from the tenacity of durum wheat semolina. But some productions are “designed” to release more starch so they combine better with sauces.
- THE SALT: WHAT TYPE, HOW MUCH AND WHEN? – It should be added when the water starts to visibly boil and before adding the pasta. The recommended amount varies from 7 to 10 grams per 100g of pasta. It can be reduced further if the sauce itself is salty or rich, or if the selected pasta type requires longer cooking times. Is it better to use coarse or fine salt? It doesn’t make a difference, but for the same volume, a spoon of fine salt contains more sodium chloride than coarse salt.
- THE PASTA SHOULD BE GENTLY “LOWERED” NOT THROWN INTO THE POT – This gesture is also an art: pasta mustn’t be thrown, but lowered gently, to prevent it from breaking or cracking. It should be placed in the pot in one go and only when the water is actually boiling, and stirred often with a wooden spoon during the first few minutes of cooking, to stop it from sticking. Stir it gently to allow the water to wrap around the pasta evenly.
- PASTA-SITTER: WHAT TO DO WHILE IT IS COOKING – You should always keep an eye on the pasta, even while it is cooking… and not only. In addition to visual checks of the cooking water, the quality of the pasta can also be felt… with the nose: A good wheaty smell is an indication of a quality product. Firstly, the readiness of the pasta must be checked inside the pot (with a wooden spoon to test its density and flexibility) and then tasted (to see if it is “al dente” and salted to perfection).
- THE RIGHT POT. AND SPOON, BETTER IF IT’S WOODEN – Choose the pot according to the type of pasta and amount of water you need. Short pasta types are happy with a wide, low pot, while for Linguine, Bucatini, Spaghetti & Co it is best to choose one with high edges, filled with no more than two thirds of its capacity, to prevent the water from overflowing during cooking. In the first few minutes of cooking the pasta should be stirred gently with a wooden spoon to stop it from sticking or falling apart. And if we place the spoon on the edge of the pot, it makes a perfect stove-saver: the temperature difference between the spoon and the boiling water will stop the liquid from boiling over.
- LID: WHEN YOU NEED IT AND WHEN YOU DON’T – The pot should be covered to make the water boil faster, but once the pasta has been added, the lid should always be removed. Pasta should be cooked uncovered, unless we are using a pressure cooker or the passive method.
- THE PROPHECY OF THE COLANDER: PERFECT TIMING DEPENDS ON THE RECIPE – Pasta continues to cook even after it has been drained, so to keep it “al dente” when served this must be taken into account during preparation. It should be drained a few minutes earlier if we plan on mixing it with a sauce in the pan, while for a cold pasta dishes, it should be removed from the heat after two thirds of the cooking time and placed in a covered bowl to continue cooking.
- SOME EXTRA HINTS FOR PACCHERI & CO PASTA TYPES – Larger pasta types, such as Conchiglioni, Fusilloni and Paccheri, should be cooked with care to prevent them from breaking or losing their shape. Broken or “caved in” Paccheri pasta, whose structure has given way until the two sides join together and overlap, is a pasta maker’s nightmare. To prevent the pasta from breaking and maintain its perfect shape, just turn off the stove a few minutes before its recommended cooking time, cover the pot and let it finish cooking away from the heat.