Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Pasta: Fresh? or dry?

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In fact, I don’t eat pasta (low-carb diet), but I do understand that many do, so I thought the article by Evan Kleiman in the LA Times would be of interest:

If imported Italian dry pasta were choice A and fresh pasta were choice B and I could only choose one to eat for the rest of my life, there would be no contest. I’d choose A, dry pasta.

Many home cooks, bamboozled by the glut of fresh pasta in restaurants, have come to believe that if it’s the chef’s choice, then it’s the better product. It is not.

Almost 30 years ago in “Pasta Fresca,” the book I coauthored with Viana La Place, we talked at great length about fresh versus dry pasta and how one is not an inherently better product but each has unique attributes that work in differing roles. It makes me a little nuts that all this time later, and with so much culinary information shared by so many, the seduction of soft, yellowish noodles still pushes the wheaty aroma and meaty texture of high-quality dry pasta aside. Fresh pasta isn’t better. It’s a completely different thing, often tender and rich with egg.

These days you too often find restaurant “crafted,” no-egg, extruded pasta that isn’t skillfully made or is so improperly dried that it ends up being a mealy accompaniment to a well-made sauce. It ruins the dish — and the appetite.

In my quest to understand why so many new restaurants insist on making their own noodles, I reached out to several chefs for whom fresh pasta is not necessarily a regional culinary choice. I asked what pasta they like to eat at home, and why they choose to serve only fresh pasta in their restaurants.

Nancy Silverton didn’t even let me get the question out of my mouth before she went on a rant of her own. “Of course dry pasta is better!” she said. “People need to be patient!”

Overwhelmingly, they answered that they eat dry pasta at home but, due to service issues — brought on by the combination of dry pasta cook times and the impatience of diners — they decided that fresh pasta was the best solution to a challenging problem.

A note here: This essay is about my love for dry durum wheat pasta. That said, fresh pasta, made well and served with appropriate sauces, is a great dining experience and there are many chefs in this town who do it spectacularly well.

Fresh pasta will cook up in two to four minutes, making easy work of putting out 20 plates of pasta in 10 minutes. Dry pasta, however, takes eight to 15 minutes to cook. That lag time is a real challenge to chefs with limited space for vast pools of boiling water holding many individual cooking baskets. In other words, chefs seem to universally love dry pasta but find it a logistical nightmare during service.

But you, the home cook, do not have this quandary. You’re making a pound or two, all to be served at once — which frees you to embrace the deep textural satisfaction of durum wheat dry pasta. So don’t dispense with one of the best pantry staples around. And please do not buy terrible supermarket fresh pasta and think you’re having a “gourmet” experience.

So let’s explore why a simple box of dry pasta is such a beloved staple. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2017 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Food

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