The preparation of the iconic Italian food is simple, but the timing is absolutely crucial
On October 25th, the World Pasta Day honor the food symbol of the Italian cuisine. All the parties involved in the process that turns wheat into a plate of spaghetti will take part in the celebration. Among them, there is also each person that in kitchens all over the world takes care of the final stage of the process.
From growing the wheat has to manufacturing all different types of pasta shapes it takes a lot of time. However, for Italians, the last 30 seconds make all the difference.
This is because pasta must be ‘al dente’. But, what does it really mean? Literally, it means ‘to the tooth’ and it is an indication of the consistency and texture of the perfectly cooked pasta.
That is slightly tender but firm to the bite. Achieving this level of doneness in Italy is considered as a form of art and a serious matter. Getting it right is critical and sets the quality standard for the entire meal. Depending on the wheat and on the shape, you have about a 30 second window to do so.
For example, Penne is more forgiving than thin spaghetti, therefore the al dente-window is a bit more flexible. As a rule of thumb, you should start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the cooking time suggested on the box. After that, it is important to taste it every 30-seconds until it is perfectly ‘al dente‘. It gets easier and easier to pinpoint the right moment each time you go through this process. Eventually, it becomes second nature.
Also, allowing someone to taste the pasta you are cooking for consistency is considered an intimate, familiar gesture. Cooking and sharing food is the bloodline of all Italians and this quality-control is an important part of it.
In Italy, if someone passes you a strand of spaghetti asking “Pronto?” (Ready?), you know you are considered part of the family.
Ilona Catani Scarlett