Welcome to the Whole Grain Pasta Cooking School! In this space we share tips and strategies for cooking whole grain pasta in a school foodservice environment. Coming out of our webinar last month, there were a couple of questions we thought we’d revisit here:
Q: I use a steamer in my school, does the “5-minute rule” still apply?
A: While the “5-Minute Rule” – pre-cooking pasta of any shape for just 5 minutes – works great in kettles, braisers or stovetops, steamers are a different beast! Here’s our Chef Bruno Wehren’s sage advice to districts and schools for steamers:
- Cook the day of service
- Use a 400 hotel pan; no more than 4lbs per pan
- Barely cover with nearly boiling hot water – no more
- Maximum heat on steamer for 8 minutes
- Stir halfway
- Might not seem ready, but mix with sauce, put in warmer
The last step is crucial, and as you’re finishing cooking your pasta directly in the sauce, make sure your sauce is hot first. By the time you’re ready to serve, the pasta will be perfectly al dente.
Q: Does cold water slow down the cooking process?
A: Absolutely! Sometimes, that’s what you want. Use cold or even ice water to stop the pre-cooking process at the 5-minute mark. But adding cold water during the cooking process will most certainly slow it down, and make it hard to know just when to stop cooking.
If you’re using cold water to stop the cooking process, remember to shake the pasta as dry as you can get it in a colander. Any water stuck inside your tubes of elbows or penne, or pooled at the bottom of your container of pre-cooked spaghetti, will be slowly absorbed by the pasta, giving you the same result as overcooking.
If you have a specific question about whole grain pasta cooking procedures, send us a note at [email protected]