A few weeks ago, I was approached by Barilla Canada to become one of their brand ambassadors. Barilla is the world's largest pasta maker and I was surprised and honoured, then wondered why they would ask me; I'm not a big foodie and though I cook three meals a day, cooking is not a huge part of this blog. But as I looked into Barilla's philosophy - to produce the highest quality of pasta and help Canadians live better by bringing well-being and healthy eating into their everyday lives - I realized that this was a message I support and could bring to my readers.
My fellow brand ambassadors, Mairlyn Smith and Natalie Richard, are both well respected food enthusiasts and cookbook authors. I am a home cook who tries my best to please an audience of two. And I'm thinking most of you are like me? Cooking is a necessity and mostly a pleasure. There are days when I take the time to cook from scratch and use the freshest vegetables and make balanced meals... and days when baked fish and french fries are the best I can muster. It's an evolution, this cooking thing. I would love to get to the point where cooking healthily is easy and second-nature.
Over the next year, I'll be sharing ways to do that. Like sharing easy meal ideas and ways to get your kids more involved at meal preparation. There will be entertaining ideas, hostess tips, and recipes too.
In preparation for this new role, I recently spent a day with the Barilla team to learn about cooking pasta. And guess what... I've been cooking pasta all wrong for the last twenty years! Chef Lorenzo, Barilla's Executive Chef, made three amazing dishes in twenty minutes (including a gluten-free pasta which I couldn't even tell was gluten-free!). He shared some of his exclusive cooking tips that have already transformed my meals.
Things I wish I knew about cooking pasta:
1. Follow the box instructions. Did you know that cooking time varies according to pasta type and shape? I didn't and tended to cook everything
"about" 8-10 minutes or so. How's that for vague? But the experts have
done the work for you and the specified time will get you perfect 'al
dente' pasta every time.
2. Finish cooking the pasta with the sauce. Undercook your pasta
by about one minute. Drain and then transfer it to your sauce pan. Cook
for an additional minute or so to allow the pasta to absorb the flavours
of the sauce.
3. Use pasta water in your sauce. When you drain your pasta, save a 1/2 cup of the cooking water. When you mix your noodles into your sauce, add some of the water in. This makes it possible to cook the pasta with the sauce a little longer and the starch released from the pasta will thicken your sauce and help it bind to your noodles better.
Don't those dishes looking amazing? Definitely one of the most memorable meals I've had. I don't eat a lot of pasta but when I do, I want preparation to be simple and the taste to be the best. Barilla is helping me to do that and I hope you enjoy reading about what I discover along the way. It's going to be a very fun year.