How to Cook Rice and Pasta

Rice and grains are diet staples across the world. They can provide the basis of a huge number of different dishes, from risottos to stews and from cakes to salads. They are economical, healthy and delicious. Pastas are essentially Italian, but they come in a huge variety of different types: spaghetti, macaroni and lasagne, to name just a few. Pasta can be fresh or dried and the hundreds of different pasta shapes allow sauces to cling on to them in different ways. More liquid sauces need thin and long pasta, thicker sauces are ideal with more complicated pasta shapes. The recipes at the end of this book include many rice, pasta or noodle options.

How to Cook Rice and Pasta How to Cook Rice and Pasta

Varieties of Rice

There are lots of different rice types, many of which come in both white and brown/wholegrain varieties. The purplish, black wild rice is not, in fact, a rice but an aquatic grass and it is much more expensive as it is difficult to harvest. In addition to their color, rice grains are long-, medium- or short-grain:

Long-grain: This rice will stay separate and fluffy if cooked properly. Examples include Basmati, Jasmine, American long-grain (such as Carolina) and others known simply as ‘long-grain’.

Medium-grain: This rice is often used in risottos or paellas. The category includes the Carnaroli risotto rice.

Short-grain: This rice can be used in risottos, puddings or as sushi rice. It is more sticky. The Arborio risotto rice is a short-grain rice.

Preparing Rice and Grains

If you want your dish to be creamy, never wash your rice before you cook it. However, if you were making sushi, then you would need to wash the rice several times before cooking. Washing gets rid of some of the starch and gives you a fluffier rice. Wholegrain rice should be rinsed to minimize the froth when you boil the rice. Soaking grains can help reduce the cooking time, but it never makes a great deal of difference so may not be worth the effort.

Cooking Rice and Grains

Because there are so many different types of grain, it is difficult to be precise about the cooking times. Always follow the method on the packet. Measure out rice by volume and not by weight. As a side dish, you will need 65 g/ 2 1/2oz/ 1/3 cup of rice per person. Cook in double the amount of liquid. You only need to simmer in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes and then drain. Fluff up the rice with a fork before you serve it. You can use cold, cooked rice or grains in salads or soups, or stuff vegetables like aubergines/eggplants with it. Do not store cooked rice for more than a day, even in the fridge, as it can cause food poisoning.

Cooking Pasta

Whether you are cooking fresh or dried pasta, you will need a large pan of boiling water, with a pinch of salt and a drop of oil added. For every 450g/1 lb pasta, you will need 6 1/10 1/2 pts/25 cups water. The pasta should be completely submerged and you need to bring it up to the boil. The pasta is ready when it feels elastic but there is some resistance when you bite into it. Drain the pasta out using a colander. As a guide, use these quantities per person:

  • dried pasta – 75-125 g/3-4 oz
  • fresh pasta – 125-150 g/4-5 oz
  • filled pasta – 175-200 g/6-7 oz

Noodles

Noodles are available dried, fresh or ready-cooked, again in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Egg noodles can be used in soups and stir-fries, rice noodles in soups or meat dishes and mung bean noodles as a noodle dish or in sauces. You can steam, stir-fry or deep-fry noodles. As a guide, use these quantities per person:

  • fresh noodles – 125-150 g/4-5 oz
  • dried noodles – 75-125 g/3-4 oz

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