Pasta is a versatile staple in your pantry. The different shapes and sizes of this dough can be used on various stocks and soups. Spaghetti and penne work well with meaty tomato sauces. Macaroni can be used to create cold salads, too. Pasta is limited to wheat, rice-based pasta is slowly getting its international notice—thanks to Asian cuisine.
With this diversity it offers, you may come to wonder if there are other means to prepare your pasta. In general knowledge, most people know that pasta can only be cooked by placing the dried pasta inside boiling water. However, professional chefs and home cooks have utilized methods of cooking pasta—which involves cold water. The first includes soaking the pasta in cold water. In contrast, the other includes placing the pasta and cold water in a single pot before boiling.
What Happens If You Put Pasta in Cold Water?
As mentioned earlier, there are two methods of cooking pasta using cold water. The first method introduces placing the cold water and pasta on the same pot. At the same time, the other includes soaking the pasta to “rehydrate” it. According to Alton Brown, a renounced chef, the best method to cook the pasta is by placing it in cold water.
Starting your pasta in cold water provides a lot of benefits. It requires lesser energy to heat while reducing the overall preparation time. Since the pasta comes to boil with the water, you will end up with starchy pasta water that works well for your pasta noodles.
Traditionally, kinds of pasta are placed after the gallon-full of water is completely burning. Salt and oil are mixed throughout the water that provides additional flavor while preventing the noodles from sticking. However, this method can take long hours of boiling, and it can produce saltier pasta.
Using Alton Brown’s method has a myriad of perks. Placing your pasta in cold water eliminates the unnecessary step of heating the water separately. The cold water and pasta will be heated simultaneously. This can be done by following these easy-to-follow steps:
- Using a large pot, fill it with 2 quarts of cold water, about a half on the traditional 5-quart water technique.
- Slowly, place your dried pasta inside the pot filled with cold water. Cover the cooking pot afterward.
- Allow the pasta and cold water to boil. Once it starts boiling, remove the lid and let the water evaporate. Simmer the food until the pasta is al dente.
The cold water and pasta method is the quickest, straightforward technique in creating al dente pasta. Since lesser water is used, it produces starchier liquid used to mix the sauces quicker than tap water.
Can You Soak Pasta in Cold Water?
Another method of cooking your pasta involves soaking your pasta in cold water. This method works on dried pasta, which is commonly brought to retail stores. By washing your pasta in a vessel filled with cold water, you allow the dried pasta to rehydrate since it absorbs water. Pasta can drink water at any temperature, making it ideal for soaking your pasta first before submerging it in hot liquid.
Although pasta can be soaked for long periods, it is still not enough to be eaten at that current stage. Rehydrated pasta in cold water will have a soft and pliable texture, but it cannot still be eaten at its current state. The starches found on pasta need to break down in a process called starch gelatinization to be consumed.
Starch gelatinization is a process where proteins found in flour must be denatured or broken down into more relaxed chains. These simple chains provide the soft bite to your pasta that you can easily digest. To create this process, heat must be produced at the 55–85°C (130–185°F) range.
This means that water doesn’t require reaching a boiling point to cook pasta. However, this low temperature will only work once the pasta is already rehydrated—or it already turned soft while inside a vessel filled with cold water. To recreate this second method of pasta cooking, you need to do the following:
- Place your pasta inside a vessel, particularly a casserole. This will provide a wide surface area for the pasta to soak properly.
- Pour cold water inside the vessel until all the content is completely covered. The water doesn’t require to be hard to work.
- Soak your pasta for ten to fifteen minutes or until the pasta is soft enough to touch. If the yellowish pasta turned translucent white, you could place your pasta inside the pan.
- You don’t have to replace the cold water used for soaking your dried pasta. In this process, allow the pasta to simmer but not boiling.
This cooking method works in places that have minimal access to heat, like outdoor camps. You can soak your pasta before going outdoors to lessen the production time. The result may not be the same as cooking with pure boiling water, but it can still produce good cooking.
How Do You Soften Hard Pasta?
Hard pasta is a type of pasta commonly available in the market. This variant has a rugged, dehydrated interior and exterior. Once heated, hard pasta will absorb water and expand with the help of heat. This produces pasta that has enough bite and chews into it.
Unlike fresh pasta, hard pasta works well in infusing flavors since it has more expansive space to absorb its liquid. Hard pasta can also be used to define leftover pasta that has been left on open air. In this case, the day-old pasta draws out its absorbed liquid—returning to its usual shape.
If you want not to waste your hard pasta, there are four methods that you may consider using:
- Method 1: Boiling. Prepare to boil water. You may add salt and oil if needed. Place your hard pasta in the colander and allow it to heat. Serve when it is firm.
- Method 2: Baking. Preheat the oven on 350°F/177°C, place your hard pasta in an oven-safe container. Place liquid if necessary, and cover it with aluminum foil.
- Method 3: Sauté. This method works on leftover hard pasta. Allow your wok to heat thoroughly. Drizzle oil into the cookware and place your pasta. Place your leftover pasta with few drops of water. Cook completely.
- Method 4: Microwave. Place your pasta on a microwave-safe bowl filled with water. Cover it with a plate and allow the pasta to cook for one minute. Serve immediately.