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Al dente

Culinary definition of al dente:  Perfectly cooked pasta is considered al dente - two italian words that refer to the firm yet soft tooth of pasta noodle perfection. Not hard, not soft - just perfect.

al dente pasta 325x225Al dente applies more-or-less exclusively to traditional semolina pasta noodles. Denser varieties made from whole wheat, kamut and buckwheat flours can be starchy, chewy and raw tasting if prepared al dente, and egg noodles simply must be buttery soft.

While experimentation is the key to pasta perfection, be sure to always salt the cooking water until it 'tastes like the sea'.  When done right, just the right amount of salt is absorbed into the pasta as it cooks - saving it from becoming an otherwise bland canvas.

On a related note - before draining your pasta, give it a quick stir to distribute the starch in the water, then scoop out 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it.  As little as one tablespoon of this starchy water, added to your pasta sauce really helps the sauce stick to the noodles - particularly helpful with smooth, broad noodles without nooks and crannies for sauce to hide in.

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