Pasta Tips and Tidbits

The perfect make-ahead dish for casual entertaining, pasta salad is a crowd-pleaser any time of year.
Mary Allen Perry

Top Pasta Picks
Test Kitchens Specialist Vanessa McNeil Rocchio created this colorful Confetti Pasta Salad. Versatile enough to serve with almost any entrée, it's one of our favorites.

Mix and match the ingredients according to what's on hand. Red or green bell peppers can be substituted for yellow, broccoli for spinach, or fresh basil for dill. For a quick and satisfying main dish, Vanessa adds grilled chicken or boiled shrimp. We used shell pasta, but any small type, such as orzo, will work well.

PASTA TIPS AND TIDBITS

  • Inserts, made of perforated stainless steel, are a quick and easy way to safely drain pasta after cooking. Fill the pot three-quarters full with water, and then place the insert in the pot. When the pasta's ready, simply lift out the insert for perfectly drained pasta. The pasta insert is also great for cooking corn on the cob or boiling potatoes.
  • Use a pot large enough to hold three times the volume of pasta you're going to cook. This ratio allows the pasta to cook evenly. Add the pasta to briskly boiling water, and stir it immediately to prevent it from clumping together.
  • Cook pasta up to two days ahead, and drain. Toss with a few drops of olive oil, and cool. Place in a plastic zip-top freezer bag, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • When making pasta salads, always undercook the pasta a minute or two. This will allow it to absorb the dressing but still retain a firm texture as it chills.
  • To freshen plastic storage containers and remove the residue left by oily salad dressings and tomato-based pasta sauces, scrub with a paste of baking soda and water.
  • Inexpensive pasta forks are terrific for loosening and then serving long strands of pasta such as spaghetti or fettuccine.
  • To prevent filled pastas such as ravioli or tortellini from breaking open when cooking, add to gently boiling water, and simmer.


 

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This article is from the October 2005 issue of Southern Living.