25 Pasta & Cooking Tips from Super-Chef Mario Batali
25 Pasta & Cooking Tips from Super-Chef Mario Batali
gathered and written by Jennifer Stitt
1. Whenever you can, try to use fresh ingredients. Many frozen or canned ingredients contain many preservatives or are highly processed to the point that they often can alter the taste or texture of a dish. Fresh ingredients can prevent that change from happening. Besides, fresh ingredients always taste better and add more vitamins and nutrients to a dish.
2. Some areas are better known for certain types of food, which is often based on either the local culture or foods that are readily available to for use in that area. If Italian food is a local favorite, then it should be easy to learn some of those recipes. At the same time, if strawberries or apples or deer meat or certain types of fish are available in your area at their freshest, then those ingredients should be used as much as possible.
3. Do not be afraid to let foods sit and sizzle in their pot or pan. Many cooks create one large habitual sin when they cook at home: over-stirring dishes. This sin often over processes food and can either add too much air or remove too much air from a dish. Additionally, precious juices can be lost from meats that are handled too much. Therefore, stop using the spoon or spatula too much. Listen with your ear instead and allow the cooking vessel to do its work, and make sure you taste the dish when only absolutely necessary.
4. When it comes to using alcohol in food, be certain it is something you are likely to drink. Do not venture out of your comfort zone too far. If there is something you know for certain you do not like to drink, then it is unlikely that your tastes for it will change when it is used in cooking. Instead, use some of your favorite types of alcohol when cooking instead.
5. Mario Batali is known as a king of pasta, so it goes without saying that he has plenty of tips to give on the subject. One tip suggests that there is a specific pasta-to-water ratio to obey when cooking. For every pound of pasta being cooked, make sure there is at least six quarts of water being used. Once the water has a chance to come to a boil, add in three tablespoons of salt. If the salt is added before the water has a chance to come to a boil, then the boiling process will take longer to happen. At the same time, be sure you do not let the water come to a boil until after pasta has been added.
6. Another pasta tip refers to the type of oil being used. As with other food ingredients, be sure it is the best and the most fresh. Some areas of the world are famous for specific types of oil, so those types should be used since they are the most accessible and also pair best with local fare. Clarity and weight of the oil also need to be considered to be sure the pasta being cooked with it is not overpowered.
7. Additionally, make sure the oil does not begin to burn. Different oils have different smoke points, so you should make yourself familiar with these differences. If an oil does seem like it is starting to burn, then simply remove the cooking vessel it is in from heat for a moment to cool it back down.
8. Many people prefer a great deal of sauce with their pasta. Regardless of the amount preferred, it is essential to the dish being a success that the sauce is integrated with the pasta thoroughly.
9. If cheese is being added to the dish and it is not included as an ingredient in the sauce, then it should be added last. At the same time, it is essential to remove the pasta and sauce from heat before this cheese is added.
10. As with other dishes, going fresh is always the best bet. In case of pasta, the best thing to add more flavor is to top it off with fresh herbs. Again, these should be purchased locally, unless you decide to grow your own. They should be incorporated into the dish evenly, just as with the sauce.
11. When cooking pasta, be sure it can be served within minutes of being finished. Pasta does not sit well, so it should be consumed as soon as possible for the best taste and texture to be experienced during the meal.
12. When pasta is being made with the intent of spending the final stages of the recipe in the oven, then make sure the pasta is cooked before baking begins. Simply cook the pasta for three minutes less than you normally would to avoid over cooking.
13. The most important thing to a baked pasta dish is the pasta. Make sure it is the star of the dish by dressing it lightly, as if it is a salad.
14. If pasta does become overcooked due to cooking and then baking, hope is not lost. The dish is not ruined. Simply cut it up into slices, add bread, and then fry away!
15. Another dish Mario Batali is known for making is homemade pizza. One of the first tips to learn is how to make your own dough. Freshly made dough performs the best. It also allows for the recipe to be altered to your tastes. Most dough recipes are rather simple and can be altered with sugar or herbs for flavoring or to increase yeast production as needed.
16. Be sure to use your hands as much as possible when working with the dough. Tools used for kneading the dough can cause it to be overworked, which then can make the final product a bit tougher to eat.
17. One common cooking sin when making pizza at home is to add too many toppings. Simplicity is the spice of this food, and using fewer ingredients on top also means avoiding a sloppy pizza.
18. As with pasta, pizza tastes best when it is topped with fresh herbs. However, do not be rough with these herbs. Be gentle and take care to apply knife skills to them gently to preserve as much flavor as possible.
19. When it comes to grilling techniques, Mario Batali has a few tricks to offer. A sure fire way to gain the best tastes from grilling is to cook over an open fire instead of over a closed off grill. Regardless of whether or not an open flame is available, using cast iron materials to grill as much as possible makes for better textures and tastes.
20. Fire roasting goodness can often be achieved by grilling, which means to cook over the coals of wood or charcoal. This way, outer layers of char can burn away, leaving the remaining tender pieces to be consumed.
21. There is one essential tip to grilling safety: keep flammable objects like the can of spray oil, away from the flame as much as possible. Also, keep some water nearby for flare ups, and make certain a fire extinguisher is accessible for flare ups that go out of control.
22. Many people prefer to sear their meatballs before adding them to pasta. Mario suggests this tactic might overcook the meat. Instead, simmer the meat balls in a sauce as the method of cooking to keep them soft and succulent.
23. Day old bread with milk is one of the best ways to ensure that meatballs are formed as well as possible. The mixture of these ingredients greats the perfect ratio of textures.
24. In order to lay your hands on the best of the best when it comes to fresh ingredients, become rather close with your local shop owners. A farmers market is the best place to locate many of these fresh ingredients. However, these markets are not always open year round in all areas. Some locations offer whole foods as part of their items. If neither of these options are available, or if it is out of season for you to grow your own, befriend local grocers and people at your local market in order to make sure they keep the best items in stock. Become familiar with their delivery times for produce and other ingredients to be sure you can access them as early as possible and in their freshest state.
25. Most importantly, Mario suggests to look at recipes as guidelines instead of steadfast rules. He says, “Recipes are just descriptions of one person’s take on one moment in time. They’re not rules.” Therefore, do not hesitate to experiment to come up with a unique dish!
- Darren Clunie