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Why does my pasta turn out slimy? This is the question that bothers… - Strolling II [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Jul. 23rd, 2007|12:11 am]
[mood |annoyedannoyed]
[music |Queen, "Keep Yourself Alive"]

Why does my pasta turn out slimy?

This is the question that bothers me endlessly, after I've figured out how I could answer any other question I have, using my librarian mind.

I have tried every pasta-cooking technique known to humanity, and no matter what I do, the more careful I am to follow the rules, the more slimy the pasta is in the end. It's coated with this awful goo that doesn't go away or even abate slightly with rinsing. Today I was so frustrated with the mucus on my mostaccioli that I took a paper towel and sort of swabbed it through the pasta. After a minute the towel was saturated with slightly yellowish goo and the pasta was STILL shiny and sticky.

Stuff I've tried:
--salting the water
--not salting the water
--adding cooking oil to the water
--not adding cooking oil
--starting with hot tap water
--starting with cold tap water (maybe I should try spring water or distilled water?)
--using a very big pot so the pasta has room to move around
--using a small pot
--covering the pot during cooking
--not covering the pot during cooking
--boiling during cooking
--only simmering during cooking
--starting with medium-high heat and then turning it up when the pasta is added
--starting with high heat and then turning it down when the pasta is added
--cooking until pasta is just al dente
--cooking past al dente
--cooking way past al dente
--stirring a little
--stirring a lot
--rinsing in hot water
--rinsing in cold water (thank goodness I have a microwave, butter won't melt on my noodles after a cold rinse)
--not rinsing at all, just draining
--putting it back in the pot after draining, to sit for awhile
--letting it sit in the colander in the sink for awhile
--not letting it sit at all

The only thing I haven't tried is not stirring the pasta while it cooks. It would stick to the bottom/to itself and that would be pasta-destructive in its own way.

My rice makes its own sauce too...but now I have a rice cooker. For some questions, it turns out, you can do an end run around the answer for $19.99 at Shopko.

Anyone have any ideas? Foolproof tips? Only things I haven't already tried, please. And nothing involving ramen noodles, Italian restaurants, or frozen foods. I love pasta and I don't want to give up on it, but I want it MY way.

[User Picture]From: eithni
2007-07-23 05:46 am (UTC)
What kind of pot do you use? I use non-stick pots and never have this problem. We also have very hard water at my place, if that helps...
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2007-07-23 06:11 am (UTC)
Nonstick...teflon-coated. That's all I have. Once I tried the bare stainless-steel one that came as part of a steamer set. Same results (sliminess) with the additional problem that bits of pasta stuck to the bottom of the pot and were really hard to chip off.


The water in Madison (and Middleton, it seems) is pretty hard in general. So why did my parents never fail to make perfect pasta when I was growing up? Hmmm...do you think I should try distilled water sometime? I keep it around to use for C&I.
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[User Picture]From: thebronwen
2007-07-23 06:13 am (UTC)
We used to have that problem, but now that we have a culligan water filter system, our pasta doesn't get that any more. Maybe you should try bottled or filtered water? We use the filtered water, a bit of salt, and boil before putting the noodles in. It does work for us. I hope it works for you!
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[User Picture]From: thebronwen
2007-07-23 06:14 am (UTC)
Oh, and we use a copper bottomed stainless steel pan. It is not non-stick.
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[User Picture]From: sylke
2007-07-23 07:56 am (UTC)
Is it the brand of pasta you're using, or can other people use that brand fine? Are you putting the noodles in immediately or only after the water starts boiling? (I always let my water boil first for pasta, but I add rice to room temp. water and bring to a boil with the rice grains already there) Next time you're out of the area/state (and Pennsic is a bit primitive to count), ask someone if you can make pasta with their equipment. Maybe even use their noodles, but try to make pasta there using your favorite combination of steps above. If it comes out fine, then it's not your technique.
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[User Picture]From: aryanhwy
2007-07-23 08:04 am (UTC)
Have you tried different brands of pasta? Do you get slime with all brands with all methods? Do you use dried or fresh pasta? I occassionally get some slime with dried pasta, but never with fresh.
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[User Picture]From: beckmumble
2007-07-23 10:50 am (UTC)
When do you add the pasta to the water? After it is at a rolling boil (good), to cold/warm water (not-so-good)?

I'm leaning towards changing pasta brands. I get this type of pasta with the really cheap off-brand boxed mac&cheese or many store-brands. Sometimes the specialty types get slimy, too. The amish-made pasta we had last night was slimy - the first slimy pasta I've had in ages.

The only time Barilla (or Muellers, Delallo, etc.) has made anything close to slimy pasta, it was long overcooked.
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[User Picture]From: pfahnlisa
2007-07-23 08:40 pm (UTC)
I also think that the boil may be the important factor.
If you wait until after the water is at a good roiling boil, the water will take away some of the slimy starch. If the water isn't boiling enough, the starch will stick to the noodles.
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[User Picture]From: ynyr
2007-07-23 06:32 pm (UTC)
I don't know if this will help, but I always toss the pasta in the colander so that it dries off a bit. I also cook it on the longer end of what the instructions say in normal water.
Of course, I don't use white pasta, I use whole wheat.
Good luck!
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[User Picture]From: ingusmoen
2007-07-23 06:46 pm (UTC)
I use stainless steel pots and Barilla pasta.
The temperature of the water hasn't seemed to matter to me.
I usually salt the water. Sometimes I add oil, but not always.
I try to remember not to put the lid on after I add the pasta so it doesn't boil over.

I don't have the slime problem.
I'd agree with several other people and point to the brand of pasta, but I also think that it is important to discover what you mean by slimy. And we could spend all day describing it here, but I think it will be a better thing to sit down some time and have you come over with your pot and pasta and we can cook the same pasta using the same faucet so the only variables are the pot and the person.
We can compare our pastas and then do it again with my pasta and see if there's any appreciable difference.

Scientific method YAY!
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[User Picture]From: baron_berwyn
2007-07-23 09:04 pm (UTC)
The brand of pasta isn't as important as the composition. You want something that is 100% semolina, which will be almost any premium brand. Cheaper pastas include softer wheat flours, which produce undesirable amounts.

If you're talking egg noodles instead of standard "Italian" pastas, thats a different critter. Just make sure you have plenty of water and its boiling before you add the product.

The "slime" is most likley grain proteins that have leached into the water and gelled back on the surface of the pasta. Adding the product to boiling water causes th eproteins to firm up before they have a chance to leach out.

(Yes, I watch Good Eats.)
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[User Picture]From: relativelylucid
2007-07-24 06:52 am (UTC)
Next time I come for a visit, why don't we make pasta? Perhaps to minds can solve the mystery--or at least have all sorts of fun trying :) I generally don't have any issues making pasta but I don't know if I do anything special that I could offer advice without seeing how your process differs from mine.
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[User Picture]From: arebekah
2007-08-18 04:49 am (UTC)

let's cook

I love pasta too, but I don't make it very often these days. I'm a total pasta snob - I really prefer fresh pasta to dried, especially after living next door to RP's for two years. MMmmm RP's garlic linguini: http://www.rpspasta.com/index.html

But even when I use a dried or frozen pasta, the only time I've had a slimy issue is when I've cooked it too long or bought cheap (before I knew what I was doing) and stirred too much.

Anyway, I want to learn how to knit socks next, so let's get together and you can teach me that and I'll work with you on the pasta thing.
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