By Nancy Caivano
Hello there—My name is Nancy Caivano, and I want to welcome you to a new feature here on the Global Gourmet website—my monthly Pasta, Risotto & You column! Here you will find many different kinds of tips on how to prepare restaurant style Pasta and Risotto dishes, with easy to follow recipes, and really great information.
For the first column, I would like to address some common misconceptions about both Pasta and Risotto. For instance—the old "oil in the pasta water" trick—doesn't prevent pasta from sticking together—it just makes oily water. The oil floats on the top, never really mixing with the pasta. To prevent sticking, use a large pot, fill with water, stir often, and use a good quality pasta.
The most asked pasta question? How long do I cook it???
My answer is always the same—cook it the way YOU like it. Everyone has degrees of "al dente." I personally like my pasta on the hard side of al dente; others might like pasta softer. You need to find the way that you enjoy pasta the most, and cook it that way. I also find timing pasta not a very efficient way to cook it—you really need to taste it to be sure.
Many people think that Risotto needs to have cream in the finished dish—guess what? It doesn't. Risotto is usually made from Arborio Rice, a short grained rice that is grown mostly in the Po valley in Italy. You can use other short grained rices also.
The secret to the risotto is the starch content of the rice and using the "risotto method" to cook it, which means adding small amounts of cooking liquid, a little at a time, instead of adding all the cooking liquid at the beginning. This produces a creamy, delicious dish that looks like rice in a cream sauce, but usually has no cream at all in it.
You will notice, as you read this column, that most of the risotto recipes are pretty much the same. What differs are the ingredients. As I have said, Risotto is not only a dish, but a method—so the basic method is the same—sautéed aromatic vegetables, a quick sauté of the rice, first liquid is a small amount of wine, then gradual additions of a stock—but changing the ingredients makes each dish individual.
I hope you check out the recipes I have included here, they are fully explained, and great change from the ordinary! If you have any questions, comments or column ideas—you can reach me at Chefchk@[email-address-removed]. I hope you enjoy them, and we'll see you again next month!—Nancy
This page created September 1998
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