The utter simplicity of cooking pasta coupled with its nutritious benefit has made it quite a popular option among the public in general. The surge in popularity has caused multiple variations of recipes with pasta as the central ingredient to surface. This allows it to be used as a viable comfort food option or as a fancy dish to impress guests.
But the first few times at making pasta is going to end in failure as a variety of factors determine the cooking period. It is best discovered through a process of trial and error.
This article is to help you cover up these mistakes, particularly if your pasta is undercooked. The article analyzes how to properly identify whether your pasta is undercooked or not, and how to re-cook undercooked pasta with or without the sauce. Some general tips are offered in the end to help you cook pasta properly.
How to check whether your pasta is undercooked or not?
Cooking pasta to perfection is an art that takes practice. A multitude of factors affect the cooking process and these are best figured out through trial and error. We will be dealing with some common mistakes to avoid while cooking pasta later on in the article.
Right now let us first understand how to spot undercooked pasta. Otherwise, you might serve your guests something you will regret, or worse you might end up overcooking the pasta making it a gooey mess (also not appropriate to serve your guests, unless of course, you don’t want them to come back again).
The quickest way to find out whether your pasta is cooked or not is to take one piece out and bite it. First, check the taste and the texture – remember that undercooked pasta feels hard and chewy. The main indication would be the chalky consistency in the middle of the pasta.
The best way to know how undercooked your pasta is is to take a piece out and cut it in half. Look at the ring that is formed on the side that is cut. It would be of a lighter tone than the rest of the pasta. The more evident or white the ring is, the more undercooked your pasta is.
Now, most chefs and recipes call for “al dente” cooking of the pasta. It literally means “to the tooth.” The fancy Italian term simply requires you to cook pasta not fully but rather let it remain a bit undercooked in the middle to allow for that bite. The keyword here is “slightly undercooked.” For the perfect “al dente” make sure the lighter tone ring is not too thick.
Some other tips include checking whether the pasta is sticking to the sides. Undercooked pasta does not stick to the sides of the pan.
The methods mentioned above work best with tube pasta like ziti, rigatoni, etc. but these tips are useful with other types of pasta as well.
The reason you should consume fully cooked pasta is that it is easier to digest and break down in the stomach. Undercooked pasta does not pose any immediate health risks. But please do not start binging on it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all the other ingredients that you use to make your pasta and its sauce need to be cooked to a safe temperature as well. For example, eggs, if used, need to be cooked to an appropriate temperature to avoid salmonella poisoning.
How to fix undercooked pasta
Now let’s get to the reason you clicked on this article – how you can fix the undercooked pot of pasta that is sitting on your stove pot or, if you were really eager, on your plate.
First, let’s assess the damage. Have you added the sauce to the pasta yet? If the answer is yes, then have faith, all is not lost. Just skip over to the next subheading.
If the answer is no, great! Read along:
Fixing Undercooked Pasta Without Sauce
If you have not already, get a large pot for boiling pasta. This is to ensure that all pieces cook properly and the ones on top do not remain undercooked. Plus, the pasta will start sticking to each other and probably end up being gooey.
Transfer the undercooked pasta with the cooking water. If you have already drained the cooking water, start anew. Fill the pot as per your requirement and add salt. Remember to not overdo it if you had already added salt the previous time.
The salt helps in giving flavour to the pasta. The dough that the pasta is made from does not have salt. Additionally, it prevents your pasta from becoming too starchy and sticking with each other. The rule of thumb when it comes to salt is 1 ½ tablespoon of salt for every pound of pasta.
The next important thing to keep track of is the boiling time. Again, you need to use your own judgment. Constantly check the pasta to ensure that you do not overcook it. Generally, it should not take more than a couple of minutes.
If you enjoy pasta with a thick sauce base, you can directly start cooking the undercooked pasta in the sauce. Just remember to keep some salted pasta water on hand as the pasta cooks it releases starch which thickens the sauce. To ensure it does not burn or stick to the underside of the pot, keep stirring and add the pasta water when required.
Fixing Undercooked Pasta With Sauce
In your eagerness, you may have already added the sauce and even plated it before realizing that your pasta is undercooked. Do not lose hope. You can still fix it. Just follow these instructions:
Start cooking the pasta again on a slow flame. Stir gently to make sure that the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. At the same time, be careful not to mush the pasta into a paste. Remember, gently and calmly.
If you think the sauce is getting too thick, add a bit of the previous salted water stock. If you have already thrown it out, make a new one by adding some butter and salt to the water. Let it boil and stir continuously. Take it off and add it to the pasta as per requirement.
Keep checking until you are satisfied.
Another method is to put some olive oil in a pan. After the pan is hot, add the pasta with sauce. Keep mixing but make sure you do not mush it up. Add chicken broth or red wine to enhance the taste of your dish. Or, simply make some salt-butter water stock and add as required.
Some general cooking tips while cooking pasta
If the pasta is going to be used for a warm dish, do not rinse it. The starch and saltiness are lost which ruins the proper flavor of the pasta. It also prevents the sauce from incorporating well with the pasta.
Rinsing is only acceptable when your pasta is going to be used for some cold dish, like pasta salad.
- Never use a Shallow Pot
When cooking pasta, even though the amount of pasta to be cooked is small, do not boil it in a shallow pot. Otherwise, the pasta might cook unevenly, or worse they might end up sticking with each other.
- Do not forget to add salt
Salt adds flavor to the pasta. It also fastens the cooling process and prevents the boiling pasta from getting too sticky.
As stated in the previous section, 1 ½ tablespoon of salt for every pound of pasta is the accepted norm.
- Remember to keep checking
One of the best ways to prevent your pasta from overcooking or being undercooked is to keep a constant eye on the boiling process. Also, understand that adding sauce and cooking it only pushes it towards becoming softer. So time your process well to ensure the dish is as per your taste.
- Add pasta to boiling water
Do not add the pasta to the pot until it has reached a full boil. It ruins the texture of the pasta making it softer. It also increases the time to properly cook the pasta.
- Do not add oil when boiling
Please do not make the mistake of adding oil when boiling the pasta as it would prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta. It is a myth that adding oil while boiling fastens the process or prevents the water from boiling over.
If you really like the taste of olive oil in your pasta you can add it after the sauce has been added.
- Refrigerate properly
If you plan on having your pasta after a day, you should add the sauce in and mix it well first before storing it in the refrigerator. This allows the flavor to permeate and set in. Additionally, if you have some olive oil at hand, mix some in as well.
Always make sure that the pasta is kept sealed in a container and is refrigerated. Only close the lid and put it in the refrigerator after the pasta has cooled down, otherwise, the pasta will end up being too soft and mushy.
Too long didn’t read (Tldr):
- Is your pasta soft and mushy? It’s Overcooked; Is your pasta hard and chewy? It’s undercooked.
- If the sauce has not been added, put it in a pot and boil again for a few minutes.
- If you have already added the sauce to the pasta, put it in a preheated pan with some olive oil and cook it with some broth or salt-butter stock.
- Stir carefully and gently so as to prevent breaking the pasta up.