Monday, March 30, 2009

Like Oil and Water... and Noodles

Dear Tricia, My mom always cooked spaghetti with a little bit of oil in the water because she said it helped to keep the noodles from sticking together. Is she right? I have money riding on this.

Well friend, I don't know who just lost money, but whomever agreed with your mom needs to pay up. Putting oil in pasta water is something that I've seen a lot of people do, but they're all just wasting good olive oil. In fact, one of the first things I learned from Chef Pardus at the Culinary Institute of America was that tip right there. He also taught me that my knife skills are terrible. I was called "Lefty" because I was always cutting my fingers. (Unintentionally. Despite my burn marks and scars, I'm not into self-mutilation.)
In theory, it seems like a good idea: oil keeps things from sticking. But like me and Rachael Ray, oil and water are mortal enemies. Oil won't disperse itself throughout the water to evenly coat all the pasta, it will only stay in one spot because oil and water just don't mix. I mean, come on... how many euphemisms are there about oil and water not going together? When you pour the cooked pasta out into a colander, the only noodles that will get oil on them are the ones closest to the little blob of oil that never mixed in with the water. That's like hosting a frat party with one beer and expecting everyone to drink it and get wasted. There's just not enough to go around.
If you want to keep your pasta from sticking, leave the oil out of the water. (And salt the water, dammit. If there's one thing you should learn from this blog, it's that.) When you pour out the cooked pasta to drain, put the oil directly on the pasta and toss them around to coat them. Simple as that.
Back to my pocket Tetris game...

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