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Mastering Pasta: How To Make It Perfect And Delicious, Every Single Time

Mastering Pasta: How To Make It Perfect And Delicious, Every Single Time

Boy, do I love pasta. I’m capable of eating it every day for the rest of my life. Thank you, Italians, for making my life so much better. Gourmands know how a fantastic meal changes the perspective of life. When you want to see a real passion and greatness, you should watch an Italian chef preparing the signature pasta meal. And when you see that end result…

mastering pasta - amazing meal

    Oh, my mouth is watering. I bet you’ve had moments like these; you watch the latest episode of your favorite cooking show, or see some amazing recipes on your favorite site, and you start to crave for that deliciousness. Is there a better way of experiencing it than making it at your home? Of course not.

    Why wasting any more precious moments when you can start right now? Just throw some pasta into the boiling water, prepare that sauce and ingredients, mix them all together, and you’re ready for the evening full of extravagant taste, luscious sensations, and praising experience of a perfect meal. Life is great when we have fabulous food.

    But the reality is, unfortunately, a little different. We prepare pasta for hundreds of years. Occasionally, our pasta meals turn out great. But most of the time, not so much. Everyone who loves a good pasta would agree that a failed attempt at a new gorgeous recipe is something dreadful. What are your worst pasta-making experiences? Sticky, gummy pasta, tasteless, or overcooked? Why do we fail to create a perfectly cooked, flavored and garnished pasta?

      What’s there to know and do to make it perfect every single time? We dive into this problem today. Stick around to find out how to make a perfect, delicious pasta every single time. No more failed attempts, no more disappointed guests, no more food in the dumpster. It’s time for you to master the pasta.

      Most Common Problems And How To Solve Them

      One might wonder: “How is it possible to fail in preparing pasta when it seems so simple and straightforward to create it?”

      Well, it does look like that, but the problem isn’t in the concept. Simple on paper doesn’t have to be simple in real life. After some research and careful examination, we got to the core of the problem. Here’s what affects failure in preparing pasta the most:

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      Water-related mistakes

      For a perfectly cooked pasta, you need a lot of boiling water, with a sizable amount of salt, and no oil. People tend to make mistakes in all of these three areas. Let’s break it down:

      Not enough water

        Either a small pot or a just plain ignorance are the most common reasons for this error. All gourmets around the world would curse your name if they knew that you cook your pasta without much water. Pasta needs space to move in the pot, and it cooks in the boiling water. It needs to absorb the water, and a very high temperature stimulates this effect. More water equals higher temperature, but it takes some patience. That’s one of the first steps in creating a perfect pasta.

        Adding Salt

          Here’s a mistake that people oversee often. Adding salt is imperative, simply because pasta needs it to have a flavor. It’s a common misconception that sauce is the only thing that adds a flavor to the pasta. Next, salt enhances the heat in the water, bringing it to a boil quicker, and reaching higher temperature as well. For a perfectly-cooked pasta, you need one gallon of water and three tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta.

          Adding Oil

          Many people add oils into the water alongside salt, to prevent the pasta from sticking. This is so unnecessary. There are claims that it will make your pasta softer, and help bonding with the sauce. There is some truth in here, but you need it in another place – stick with us to find out where. You don’t need any oil in your pasta while preparing or cooking. Additionally, oil will make it slippery, which will degrade the bonding when adding sauce. Please don’t add the oil into the water.

          The Process-Related Mistakes

          While the water-related mistakes tend to cover most of the stuff we do wrong, it turns out that we have some errors during the cooking itself.

          Stirring

            Some people forget about stirring, and leave the pasta to cook while they chill out, or prepare the sauce. No-No. If you don’t stir your pasta consistently, you’ll get a clumpy, sticky mess. Some of it will be edible, while all other will be stuck together in large lumps. Pasta needs to move in the pot to prevent this problem. Use the pasta utensil; those are perfectly made for this situation. Remember, the first few minutes are crucial in making pasta that won’t stick. Later during the cooking, you don’t have to stir all time – an occasional stir will be enough.

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            Timing

            The first mistake to mention here is putting pasta in the water before it boils. Combined with the small-amount-of-water mistake, this one almost guarantees for a sticky pasta that feels like gum. Wait for the full, rapid boil, which won’t get lowered when you add the pasta. This will prevent lumps, as the surface of the pasta contains starch which reacts to boiling water the best. When you add the pasta to the water, starch absorbs a lot of heat, lowering the temperature. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a lot of water and to be patient for the full rolling oil. Also, breaking the pasta won’t make it cook faster or better. Don’t do that, please.

            mastering pasta - timing

              Next, we must speak about the actual timing of the cooking. Pasta needs to spend several minutes in boiling water to be cooked well. There are three variations of cooked pasta that you need to consider:

              • Al Dente
              • Soft
              • Firm

              The taste of each is different, and it’s required for a different type of meals. Soft and firm are self-explanatory, while al dente (“To the tooth” in Italian) is the stage of cooking when you have the softness of the pasta, but some tasty structure inside as well. To reach this stage, you need to observe the packaging of your pasta, boil it for the 2/3’s of the recommended time, and then turn the heat off and let it stay for the remaining 1/3rd. Add a cup of cold water when the timer ticks zero to prevent further boiling. (Yeah, it’s a very good thing to have a timer.)

              Hitting the perfect al dente pasta requires precise timing and immediate action. The best way to know if you’ve hit al dente is to try the pasta yourself. This is one of the first rules of cooking. Try the food you’re preparing.

              Draining the pasta

                When you’ve reached that perfect texture, drain your pasta from water. People tend to do this while washing the pasta with cold water. A terrible mistake. By doing this, your pasta will lose the warmth and texture a lot and turn gummy and tasteless. Don’t do this. Instead, just drain the pasta from the cooking water, and get ready to mix it with the sauce.

                Sauce-related mistakes

                Making sauce is a very important part of pasta. Many problems might occur while making a sauce, and we’re here to demystify them so you can avoid mistakes.

                Making a sauce

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                  When making a sauce to match your pasta, you need to have several factors in mind:

                  • Not every sauce mixes well with every type of pasta
                  • Timing
                  • Ingredients
                  • The process

                  Since there is a lot of different kinds of pasta, you need to know which sauce goes well with the type you’re preparing. Spaghetti, for example, are going well with meatballs, or with sauces with ground meat inside, like bolognese. Each type of pasta has the perfect sauce, and each type of pasta has the worst sauce to blend with. The experience will guide you through the decision-making process, as you can experiment with the different types of pasta and sauces. Don’t be afraid to fail.

                  When talking about timing, you need to know that sauce usually takes a bit more time than pasta, so if you’re not a skilled chef, make your sauce first and then start to cook the pasta. This is important especially when you’re preparing thicker, more difficult sauces that require more practice and knowledge. Like Alfredo sauce, for example. Alfredo fettuccine is one of my favorite pasta meals. And to master the Alfredo sauce, you need to know the bits of cooking that you can learn by reading and practicing.

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                    Ingredients are important at both sides of the meal – pasta and sauce. When making a sauce, always go for fresh ingredients that will bond with each other perfectly as well as bond with the pasta itself. Don’t compromise on ingredients – even one bad ingredient can make a mess out of your perfect meal.

                    The process of making the sauce also needs to be perfect. You have to develop the best way of preparing it, both in effectiveness, timing, and the final outcome. Your sauce has to be perfect in taste, and texture, all according to the recipe you are using. Honestly, this comes with the experience. Your first-time sauce won’t be as perfect as one you see on the TV, and this is a fact. Still, it doesn’t have to frighten you; practice makes perfect, this goes for everything in life.

                    Mixing the sauce with pasta & serving

                    This is the phase of the preparation where you need to be careful, quick, and savvy. You have to be prepared and ready; this means having the sauce ready and warm, and al dente pasta ready for drying with a cup of water where pasta was cooked saved. (Yes, this is a pro tip – save one cup of that water)

                    This process is straightforward, and it goes like this:

                    1. Drain the pasta from water – (never rinse it)
                    2. Have the pan with sauce simmering and ready (your pasta shouldn’t wait for sauce to be cooked, it has to be synchronized)

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                      3. Put the pasta into the sauce pan – not the other way around
                      4. Add a bit of olive oil (or regular oil) and the saved cooking water to the mix
                      5. Stir the mass to coat the pasta completely (do this for full two minutes on high heat, this will allow the pasta and sauce to bond better)
                      6. Serve the pasta with tongs and garnish

                        All of the steps shouldn’t take longer than two minutes each. Remember to have the elements ready before the assembling begins; with everything prepared, you’ll streamline the process which will make no room for error.

                        Enhancing your pasta

                        We don’t have the ability to cook like professional chefs. But we all have an opportunity to learn and use the knowledge. Enhancing your meals with simple tricks and practices will bring them (and your cooking) to another level. When you use these tricks, prepare for some loud praises when you serve your pasta to your guests.

                        • If you want al dente, pull the pasta out of the water before it reaches this state. Your pasta must simmer with sauce on a high heat for two minutes; that’s when you want it to hit al dente level.
                        • Make your sauce a bit more oily than it should be. Pasta will absorb the oil, and it will add the richness to the taste. To achieve this rich taste, many add butter or olive oil at the end, which is also advisable, but the former way is much more efficient because you’ll simmer only for two minutes; adding cold butter or olive oil won’t enhance the bonding like hot oil already in the sauce.
                        • Salty water from cooking is good, but just in some sauces. Keeping a cup of cooking water is really important and good advice. But if you’re making salty sauces, you don’t need that water, especially if you use the previous tip.
                        • If possible, try to get homemade pasta. Bear in mind that this type of pasta cooks for a shorter time than regular one. Still, the difference in taste and quality is enormous.
                        • Add some spices in the pasta while you cook it. When adding pasta to boiling water, stir in some spices and cook the pasta regularly. It will enhance the taste of the pasta significantly.
                        • Garnishing adds the final (very significant) touch. A small, yet important touch will make your pasta taste and look amazing. Be sure to add it on top, depending on the recipe.

                        Having a perfectly made pasta is an out-of-this-world experience.

                        And with the tips learned from this article, you can make it at your home, every single time. It won’t take you long to start making incredible meals with pasta, and everybody you serve will notice that.

                        One last advice: Prepare to be called “The Pasta Master.”

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                        Dejan Kvrgic

                        Blogger, Writer

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                        Published on November 14, 2018

                        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                        With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                        For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                        In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                        Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                        Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                        It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                        For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                        Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                        Symptoms of Fatigue

                        Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                        • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                        • mental blocks
                        • lack of motivation
                        • headache
                        • dizziness
                        • muscle weakness
                        • slowed reflexes and responses
                        • impaired decision-making and judgement
                        • moodiness, such as irritability
                        • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                        • reduced immune system function
                        • blurry vision
                        • short-term memory problems
                        • poor concentration
                        • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                        Causes of Fatigue

                        The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                        • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                        • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                        • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                        • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                        Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                        Medical Causes of Fatigue

                        If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                        Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                        Anemia

                        Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                        Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                        There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                        This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                        Diabetes

                        Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                        Sleep Apnea

                        Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                        Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                        Thyroid disease

                        An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                        Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                        • Lack of sleep
                        • Too much sleep 
                        • Alcohol and drugs 
                        • Sleep disturbances 
                        • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                        • Poor diet 

                        Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                        • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                        • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                        • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                        • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                        Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                        Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                        • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                        • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                        • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                        How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                        Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                        1. Tell The Truth

                        Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                        To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                        Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                        The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                        One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                        • How you feel
                        • What time of day it is
                        • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                        • How your mind and body reacts

                        This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                        2. Reduce Your Commitments

                        When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                        If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                        When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                        Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                        3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                        If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                        Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                        If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                        Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                        Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                        4. Express More Gratitude

                        Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                        It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                        Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                        5. Focus On Yourself

                        Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                        There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                        But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                        We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                        6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                        Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                        Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                        The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                        Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                        7. Take a Power Nap

                        When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                        Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                        This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                        8. Take More Exercise

                        The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                        Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                        The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                        You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                        9. Get More Quality Sleep

                        To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                        Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                        My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                        10. Improve Your Diet

                        Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                        Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                        On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                        To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                        Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                        Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                        11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                        Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                        When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                        Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                        My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                        12. Get Hydrated

                        Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                        Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                        If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                        The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                        The Bottom Line

                        These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                        If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                        Reference

                        [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                        [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                        [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                        [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                        [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                        [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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