Doper Cooks... Rachael Ray says...

I’ve seen a couple episodes of Rachael Ray in which she says to salt the water when you boil pasta - because it is your only chance to add flavor to the pasta itself.

My question is, why can’t you add other seasonings to it at the same time? If I am making spaghetti, can I add oregano, basil, garlic powder … whatever “Italian” seasonings I want to flavor my pasta?

It seems that she is saying the only flavor the pasta will absorb is salt, but that doesn’t make sense to me.

Does anyone season their boiling water?

Why wouldn’t it absorb other flavors? :confused:

My WAG is that salt ionizes, and in essence becomes part of the water itself, while other spices will remain in their ground-up state and not, therefore, be absorbed by the cooking pasta.

Salt is also the only “spice” that is cheap enough you’d be willing to dump enough into to water to overcome the heavy dilution the water causes.

And most of the flavors in spices, phenols and the like, aren’t very water soluble and don’t enter the water very effectively.

Along with salt, I regularly add dried basil, orgeano, and/or parsley to the water when I boil pasta. Dried chives with potatoes, too.

Definitely adds flavor.

This is the correct answer. In addition to dissolving in water, salt is a very small molecule and is readily absorbed by the food. Leave the other spices for whatever sauce you are using. Many of the dried spices aren’t even water soluble. Lastly, dried parsley, basil and chives are pretty much flavorless. The flavor of delicate herbs does not survive the drying process.

Pay no attention to Rachael Ray–she’s a piker. You need to watch Lidia Bastianich for Italian cooking tips.

The best way to get spices into your sauce is to bloom them in olive oil before adding them to your sauce.

Or make your own pasta and add those other spices to your dough before you form it.

I can’t do it to save my life, but I’ve seen it done on tv.

Do you all stir some cheese and/or sauce in the pasta before putting on the plate, and before putting the topping sauce on?

I drain the water just shy of al dente and pour all the sauce into the pan with the pasta to (1) warm the sauce, (2) finish cooking the pasta, and (3) let the pasta absorb some of the sauce all at the same time.

I don’t top with sauce after serving.

This. I used to serve naked pasta, with cheese, then sauce on top, but have been listening to the Italians lately and mixing it all together. At least as much as we think we will eat; the rest is saved separately for leftovers.

Also, Rachael Ray hates when people just serve pasta with sauce on top. I wish I didn’t know this but you can’t watch one episode of one show without hearing it.

I boil my pasta in chicken or beef bouillon. :slight_smile:

FWIW, adding salt to pasta water is exactly what Alton Brown says to do, for the same reason as Rachael Ray, and he’s not a cooking bimbo.

Years ago when I was cooking for an entire family I found the best method was to prepare the sauce in a wok. Stir fry the aromatics, add the protein when appropriate and then simmer slowly with the liquid ingredients while the past cooks. Mix the pasta into the sauce and put the wok on the table.

And for god’s sake, don’t put oil in the water.

Bloom them in olive oil? I don’t know what this means.

I’m learning more about cooking - slowly. Most of the time, I am cooking for one and I tend to simply cook for sustenance. I have a hard time cooking a “meal,” when I can open a can of something and be done with it.

I’m trying to break myself of this.

This is the way I usually do it, but now I’m wondering if the pasta is actually absorbing the sauce.

:smiley: She’s on at a time of day when I never have to be at work. I usually watch the first ten minutes to see if there is going to be anything of interest to me. If there is, I’ll watch. If it’s “makeover” day, I change the channel or go online.

The segments of her show I actually am watching for is things like Lara Spencer’s “Flea Market Flip.” HGTV used to have two shows that were people taking a small amount of money and redoing a room. One of them was “Design on a Dime,” and I forget the name of the other one. I keep thinking it was “Bang For Your Buck,” but the last time I saw that title, it was a show about rating three house renovations; which one made the best improvement to their house.

HGTV has changed their formatting from showing things to remake, refurbish, and reimagine to shows about people trying to buy a house, which bores me to tears. It’s not Home/Garden TV, it’s more like Real Estate TV. :frowning:

Most spices are oil soluble rather than the water soluble. Heating them up in oil beforehand allows the flavored to cook and mingle better.

This is one I just can’t get behind. I’ve heard the argument that it makes the pasta “oily.” If you use good olive oil it is like saying you are making the toast buttery… not a bad thing in my book.

Then they say the sauce won’t stick to the pasta. Honestly I’ve never had a problem with scooping up a forkfull of pasta and sauce and somehow only ending up with just naked pasta.

It won’t make pasta oily because oil and water don’t mix. For that same reason, it won’t add any flavor. The oil stays on top of the water. About the only thing it accomplishes is keeping the water from boiling over should you replace the lid after adding pasta and forget to remove it after the water returns to a boil. Maybe some oil will flavor the pasta when you drain it, but better to oil after draining, not the water. However, if you do oil the pasta, you prevent it from absorbing the sauce, which is probably what whomever meant by “sticking”, not that the sauce will slide of the pasta. Not a problem if your sauce is simply olive oil and fresh grated Parmesan cheese, but a problem if making an Alfredo or other sauce.

Maybe it is a ratio thing… i have a very large pasta pot so I add about a tablespoon of oil to about 1.5 gallons of water along with about a bit of salt. I do it this way because my Mom did it that way… as did her mom… as did her mom… etc so it has to be right. After I drain it I toss it into the pot of marinara based meat sauce and stir it all up. Never any problem getting pasta and plenty of sauce in every bite.