Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Cook Spaghetti Noodles

You might think cooking spaghetti noodles is as easy as boiling water, and it is -- almost. But it still needs a little explanation to get it right.

First, what is right?

1. Normal spaghetti and meatballs noodles are not the real thin, angel hair noodle, or the real thick, eat with chili type. It's the medium thickness.
2. The perfect cooked noodle is firm, not mushy. Al dente. That's al dente, not dante, he wrote The Divine Comedy. I was with a friend of mineat an Italian restaurant with Italian speaking Americans, and my friend ordered the spaghetti, al dante. The Italians laughed all night about it.
3. The plates and the spaghetti are hot, steamy hot.
4. Loose, not gluey and stuck together.

Now how do you get there?
  1. Use a big enough pot with plenty of cold water. If you don't the noodles will be covered with a pasty film after cooking. What you are wanting to see after the water is boiling and the noodles are slightly softened is a rolling and almost dancing noodle, they slide up, rollover, go down, and then come back up again. Those are happy noodles.
  2. Please be patient and let the water get to a boil first.
  3. Add a little salt. Add noodles slowly.
  4. Stir once, maybe twice, to get them all separated. The spaghetti should have enough room to move around.
  5. Forget the timers. This is Italian food. Italians don't use timers. Germans and Swiss use timers because they made watches and they needed a way to sell them. After the noodles cook a while and change color, get a fork, pull one out and bite into it. It should be firm. A little firmer than you want them while eating. They will continue to soften after taken out of the water because they are hot. Capisce?
  6. Do not pour cold water on them to stop them from cooking, some American must have come up with that idea. Take them out of the water before they are right and pour them into a warm strainer or bowl. I leave a little water in the bowl and while plating stir them in the water to keep them hot and not sticky.
  7. You may pour a little spaghetti sauce on them to keep them from sticking if you want. If you are serving right away, just plate and pour sauce and meatballs at plating.
  8. Learn how to eat with a fork and a twirl. It's not difficult and they taste better.
  9. Put on a little Italian Opera, while cooking and eating. Drink a little cheap red wine. Italians like good wine, the French like expensive wine.
  10. After a healthy plate of spaghetti and meatballs always dip your bread into the remaining marinara sauce, wash it down with a little dry Cabernet, lean back in your chair and realize that there is a God in heaven.


Fort said...


Besides that you're completely right - poorly cooked noodles are one of my pet peeves. Especially when somebody else has made them so you have to eat.

Great post.

Francis Shivone said...

That's maybe a little too inside. A couple places I worked the warehouse crews loved chili with think noodles. Yes.

Becca said...

Do I get credit for inspiring your blog post?

Francis Shivone said...

Becca -- actually I hadn't read your post. Sorry about the bad experience. I grew up in an Italian restaurant so I don't eat jar sauces. That sounds food snobbish but I just can't do it. Which is why I don't eat out Italian because their spaghetti sauce jar is industrial size but still a jar. If I don't have time to make the sauce I buy nice tomatoes fry them a little with olive oil, garlic and onion and that's about as good as it gets.

Wait till Jake sees how I scoreboard him on my next post.

Andrew said...

Good Post. It is important that the message of proper spaghetti texture gets out there.

I think you should do a post on matching noodle and sauce. There are many in the world still in the dark about this simple, yet essential, aspect of proper spaghetti cooking