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Frequently Asked Questions about Pasta

Every day, we receive lots of emails from people asking for answers to general questions. For a glimpse of this dynamic exchange of ideas and tips, and for answers to questions about food that you may have had yourself, please have a look at this FAQ! You can also browse other answers at other FAQs pages or look for answers in articles in the services page.

If you still have questions, post it in the recipe forum where other visitors may respond to your request.

 
  
 
 

Q.  Can lasagna be put together one day, and cooked the next?

A.  Lasagna is a perfect make-ahead meal. You can certainly make it one day, and bake it the next, providing you store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. It also stands up to freezing quite well, so you can make it, freeze it, and bake it at your convenience.

Q.  What does 'al dente' mean?

A.  One of the biggest no-no's in pasta preparation is overcooking. Don't do it! Take a cue from the Italians, and boil your pasta until it's 'al dente,' which means 'to the tooth.' In other words, it should be tender but slightly firm to the bite. The longer you cook pasta, the mushier it gets. Don't rely on the clock to evaluate doneness.

Q.  My husband loves to cook. He's been dying to make a homemade Alfredo sauce. A co-worker gave him a recipe. He thought he followed it to a "T", but the cheeses never melted in the sauce. It was all lumpy and clumpy. What happened?

A.  Temperature is very important for an Alfredo sauce. The sauce should be hot, but not boiling. If the sauce is not hot enough, the cheese may not melt well. A boiling sauce will separate and curdle. To maintain an even temperature, the cheese should be grated very fine and gradually stirred into the sauce in batches, only adding more after the first addition is thoroughly melted and the sauce smooth.

Q.  I have been experimenting with fresh pasta. When I make ravioli, the ravioli often break apart during cooking. What am I doing wrong?

A.  When one sheet of pasta is laid over another with filling in-between, air can be trapped between the layers. If the air is allowed to remain, the trapped air will expand during cooking and cause the ravioli to explode. To avoid this, work the air bubbles out of the ravioli by gently but firmly pushing the air from the edge of the filling to the edge of the pasta with your fingers. Continue pushing the air out until there is no more air trapped.

Q.  I often find myself adjusting recipes in order to make enough for my family, but it doesn't quite work for some recipes. Do you have any advice for me?

A.  Changing recipes in order to make more or less servings is called "recipe scaling." Whenever you alter the amounts of ingredients for a given recipe, you may also need to adjust the cooking temperature, cooking time, pan size and seasonings. But for food chemistry reasons, recipe scaling simply does not work well for some dishes: delicate foods such as soufflés, baked items requiring yeast such as breads, and recipes for a single large item that is meant to be later divided into smaller portions such as cakes, pies, breads and whole turkey.

Our Recipe Scaling Page will give you a reliable framework for successful recipe scaling: It offers detailed guidelines for recipe scaling.

 


 

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