When it comes to cooking pasta, the secret is in the quality of the pasta you buy, not so much in the amount of time you cook the pasta.

Pasta should be cooked al dente, but it’s easier to achieve this when you’re using higher quality pasta.

In Costa Rica, thereasonably priced and reliable imported brands are:

  • Barilla
  • Delverde
  • Molisana

Barilla and Delverde are readily available at Auto Mercado and Pricesmart. At times at Masxmenos and Walmart. For a time Auto Mercado was bringing in the Molisana brand.

But be careful, for a time Masxmenos (and assuming Walmart) had the Grano de Oro pasta brand, but a bad experience due to improper storage ended that for me. I don’t see it anymore on the store shelves.

Since we are dealing with an imported product, important to take note if the pasta is bad or spoiled. How do you know? The best way is to smell and look at the dry pasta: if it develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, or if mold or insects appear, it should be discarded. To maximize the shelf life of dry pasta, store in a cool, dry area. The aforementioned supermarket obviously did not.

For the national brands, Roma is the pasta of choice.

The Roma brand is readily available in all supermarkets.

According to their website, wheat is obtained from the Northern part of the United States, the semolina is enriched with vitamins and minerals, production is done with state-of-the-art Italian equipment (Pavan), “which makes our plant the most modern in Central America”.(Costa Rica).

Roma began operations in 1962 and since its beginnings in Escazu, the company, to keep pace with growth, moved to larger facilities in Alajuela.

It’s an OK pasta, but if your budget can handle it, give the imported Italians a try.

Why does quality make a difference?

If you buy better brands of dry pasta, you’ll find you have a much broader window of how long you can cook them. Better brands pasta typically take a little bit longer to cook because they have a higher protein content and just a better strength.You can overcook them a couple minutes, and they still have

You can overcook a better brand pasta by a couple minutes, and it will still have a beautiful texture.

Rinse first? No way.

The correct way is to drain, keeping some of the water ( a half cup full) if you’re going to use a jar (can) tomato sauce.

If the instructions on a box of pasta tell you to rinse it, that is a sign of the lowest quality. Do not waste time or money on it.

If you really love Italian food, you must be able to cook pasta properly.

Here are my tips for perfect cooking of pasta:

  • First of all, the quantity, 150 to 200 grams per person.
  • The amount of water should be double the volume of the dry pasta
  • Boil the water in a covered pan
  • Add salt to taste and 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Add the pasta
  • DO NOT COVER THE PAN
  • Mix it properly
  • Spaghetti can be a challenge if you are not using a deep pot, pressing down on the spaghetti so as not to break, letting the vapor soften it as you bend and twirl
  • For the other pasta, a large spoon gets the stirring going
  • I keep the metal fork or spoon in the water while the pasta is cooking. Careful, if you use a utensil without a plastic covering, the metal will be hot.
  • Follow the cooking time indicated on the package as a guide, not a time.
  • As you stir, get a feel for the pasta to determine it is cooked.
  • Al dente is the only way, but tastes vary, you can cook as you like, but if you’ve never tried al dente give it try, but, be careful you may never go back to overcooked pasta again
  • Drain, DO NOT RINSE
  • If using canned/jarred pasta sauce, keep about 1/2 cup of the water to mix with the sauce
  • Add the sauce to the pan and heat (shame on you if you used the microwave to heat the sauce.
  • Add the pasta and stir it up
  • Serve

For some great tastes, try different sauces, even make your own. One of my favorites is “aglio y

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

One of my favorites is “aglio e olio” (garlic and oil), freshly minced garlic dropped into a hot oil until turns golden. Continually stir, do not burn the garlic. On the plate, add the parmesan, sprinkle with some parsley or oregano.

Another version of this, raid the crisper of vegetables (celery, onions, peppers, carrots, what have you), bacon, dry tomatoes and go to town, using herbs and spices (I use a combination of basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, and ground pepper) in creating a one of kind, for a one time only, great sauce.

How to serve

The only way to eat pasta is hot, from the pot to plate.

Depends on your taste, add hot dried peppers or my favorite hot dried peppers soaked in olive oil (prepared in advance and typically soaked over months in the jar).

For the finale, add generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese. If your budget allows, buy a sliver of real parmesan, rather than the grated packaged parmesan.

Enjoy!

PS, Pasta is always best enjoyed in company. Invite a friend. Share the experience. Spread the pasta!