FoodAdd Seaweed to Your Pasta Water
The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Cooking Pasta
You might not even realize the trouble it causes.
Adding salt until your pasta water is “salty like the sea” is a common practice, but no one talks about the other briny, oceanic flavors the large body of water has to offer. I wouldn’t boil my pasta in actual sea water, but you can impart a bit of minerality and mushroom-like umami with the help of seaweed.
You could do this with any seaweed you like, but I favor kombu (most frequently used to make), which is absolutely riddled with powdery-white glutamic salt crystals (aka “half of MSG”). In terms of measurements, you can play pretty fast and loose here. I added two 1-inch x 4-inch pieces to two quarts of salted cooking water, brought the water to a boil, then removed the kombu just before adding the pasta, but you could probably add an extra sheet if you were so inclined. The ocean-esque water gave the spaghetti strands (which were destined for cacio e pepe) a savory, brackish note. They were fantastic with butter and cheese, but I think they’d really shine with a scampi or some scallops (duh).
The Foolproof Way You Can Tell When Noodles Are Cooked
There's a simple trick that you can use that doesn't involve biting into a slightly raw, very hot piece of rigatoni. All you need to do is carefully fish out one of your noodles from the pasta pot and cut it in half. When you do, you'll likely see a ring inside the pasta that's a lighter color than the rest of the noodle. That part is the uncooked pasta. The thicker a ring there is, the less cooked it is. For pasta that's al dente, there should be a thin ring of that lighter color inside. If you want your pasta a little bit less cooked than al dente, look for a thicker ring.
Would it be weird with a red sauce? Probably not, though it might be hard to taste the seaweed. Extra glutamate in your pasta water is never a bad thing, but an acid-heavy tomato-based sauce could obscure kombu’s more delicate mushroomy flavors. But,if starchy, seaweed-boosted pasta water will make your sauce—and your noodles—that much more flavorful.
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