Khok: Pasta dossier 2: Al dente

Ober Khok
·2 min read

There are two things I like about pasta: They’re versatile and easy to cook.

Oh, wrong! You can botch it if you overcook pasta to limp death. What I do is to test a supple strand. If the core is still white, it needs a few seconds more of cooking.

My Aunt Tita Blitte came to my side. “It’s good to follow the instructions on cooking time, but it’s also good to test the firmness or al dente, to the bite.”

My cousin Dona said, “If you want to cook it with other dishes, just parboil it, and check the firmness as you go along.”

Peetong, Dona’s husband, said, “I don’t think you’ll go to jail for making limp pasta. Although I think Anthony Bourdain will turn in his grave when he discovers your kitchen crime.”

FETTUCCINE. Thank you, dear ones. Let’s continue our Past Dossier.

Fettuccine are flat noodles that cook in 10 to 12 minutes. I often use this noodle to make carbonara and mock lasagna that I call “A Kinda-lasagna Bake”—replace lasagna with a layer of fettuccini.

This noodle is best for tossing with sauces made with meat and tomato sauce, cream and butter, or creamy cheese.

BASIC ALFREDO. To make this basic fettuccine Alfredo, melt half cup butter, then mix with cream till bubbly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a cup of pasta water, simmer then add the pasta to coat. Serve with grated cheese of choice.

FUSILLI or rotini has a spiral or corkscrew shape. Actually, rotini means little spindles, or twists and spirals. It cooks in eight to 10 minutes, and is best used for baked dishes and salads. It works well with pesto, tomato sauce and seafood.

BASIC FUSILLI. One uncomplicated plate calls for tomato meat sauce! Use your recipe, and serve with grated cheese.

To make it look fancier, read on.

Add sliced black olives or mushrooms or diced ham.

Another basic rotini routine you can try is Basic Veggie Fusilli: Start by cooking sliced bacon with chopped white onion and garlic until fragrant and bacon fat is translucent. Add cream and broccoli florets.

Season with salt and pepper. Toss in drained pasta. To serve, top with grated cheese if you like.

JUMBO SHELLS. The large, shell-shaped pasta has an open cavity ideal for stuffing. They’re also good for baked dishes, and tomato or cream-based food. The pasta cooks in 11 to 13 minutes.

BASIC STUFFED SHELL. Saute spinach (I use alugbati) in garlic and onion. Add ricotta cheese (I use diced, hard kesong puti or plain cheddar in a pinch). Stuff shells with the mixture. Place in a wide covered pan. Add tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Either simmer till bubbly or pop into an oven till grated cheese turns golden brown.