Warm Southern Breeze

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Making Spaghetti? Here are some PRO TIPS to help make it BETTER!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Spaghetti! Who doesn’t like it?

Spaghetti is an easy-enough meal to prepare, and it can be as simple, or as complex, as one desires.

And despite that, as some things often are, they can be deceptively simple, or even challenging to master.

While with recipes, whether found online, on boxes, or in magazines and books, there seems to be a somewhat straight-forward approach to making certain dishes, even with renown and very popular ones, sometimes, the “Whys & Wherefores,” i.e., the rationales, the reasons why one does a certain thing a certain way, are typically omitted. And, that can be to the detriment of a burgeoning cook, or aspiring chef.

So, we’ll set out to, at least in small part, make a correction… at least as concerning spaghetti.

1.) Salt

Salt the water which the noodles boil in — HEAVILY, not a mere sprinkle, or a dash, or two. Lay it on!


Salt is hygroscopic, which means that it draws, or attracts, water.

And the noodles should be cooked to an “al dente” consistency, a translation meaning “to the teeth,” referring to the personal preference of the cook — though they should neither be mushy, nor crunchy. And it should be noted as well, that the proteins in the noodles will be fully developed (and ready to be removed) when a noodle taken from the pot sticks when it is thrown upon a vertical surface, such as the wall, or cabinet door.

And DO NOT put any oil/grease/butter on the noodles, either before, or after, cooking.

Why not? You want the noodles to be coated with the sauce, and oil/grease/butter prevents that from happening. 

Oh… and another thing, DO NOT rinse the spaghetti after it cooks. 

Why not? You’re rinsing off all the proteins that developed in the cooking water. A simple dump in a strainer/colander will suffice.

2.) Balsamic vinegar

Add balsamic vinegar to the sauce. And don’t be chintzy or stingy with it, either. The resulting flavor enhancement will pleasantly surprise you!

Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

And I will say this about that: Be familiar with a GOOD & AUTHENTIC brand of product, because there are many that aren’t worth a hoot. And whatever brand you purchase, it should come from Modena, Italy, and should have some indication on the bottle of its authenticity and origin, such as the AIB logo (AIB Association of Italian Balsamic Vinegar Tasters); the logo of the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena; the complete designation “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” (different wording, or the presence of only some of these elements, such as the words “balsamic” or “Modena” indicate imitations); a quality rating on the bottle as indicated by the presence of 1–4 grape leaves;

One Leaf – Suggested for salad dressings and everyday use. Light flavor and slightly acidic. Vinegar flavor is more pronounced.

Two Leaves – Suggested for marinades, BBQ’s and steamed vegetables. Here is where you will begin to taste the sweetness of the Balsamic and less of the added vinegar.

Three Leaves – Suggested for roasted meats and fish, warm sauces. Can be very nice drizzled directly onto the food. Sweeter than one and two leaf Balsamic. Smoother flavor.

Four Leaves – Suggested for exclusive recipies, fresh fruits, ice creams, drizzled over Parmesan. Sweet superb taste.

and a DOP designation (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), literally, a Protected Designation of Origin often indicated as PDO, or POD.).

A PDO is assigned by the European Union to the name used to indicate a product that owes its unique characteristics to its place of origin, its production, modification, and processing, that occur within that geographical area (referred to by the name of the product itself and coinciding with a place, region or country). Verification of compliance with the production specifications is done by impartial parties recognized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies. Balsamic vinegar is produced exclusively in the Region of Modena or Reggio Emilia.

3.) Meatballs

If you want, or use meatballs, they should be the size of a medium-sized olive, which is to say, they should NOT be large, nor unwieldy in size. Golf ball-sized meatballs are pushing it, and more often than not, are much too large. One should not need a knife to cut them in half in order to eat them.

In almost all cases, meatballs should be no more than “bite-sized.” Note that it is “almost all,” and NOT absolutely all. They can be made quickly and easily by pinching off a small amount of meat and quickly rolling it between the palms of the hands, sometimes (with skill) 2, 3, or even 4, or more can be made that way at one time.

Ground beef and/or ground pork may be used in combination to make the meatballs. Seasonings (as mentioned below in sauce) may be added to them in preparation before cooking. And to be certain, they should NOT be cooked rapidly, which is to say that, they should not have a crunchy exterior surface. On a personal preference level, I do not care for the meat being prepared in the sauce as it might be for tacos, i.e., loosely.

4.) Sauce

The sauce is the star of the show.

Don’t be afraid to show it off, to dress it up, to be extravagant in its preparation!

The use of herbs & seasonings common to the Mediterranean region in the south of France are common also to Italy.

Use them all!

The liberal use of basil, of course, oregano, cumin, savory, thyme, savory, marjoram, rosemary, red pepper flakes, garlic (powder and/or fresh crushed), diced onion, mushrooms, black olives, tomato chunks, olive oil, black pepper, salt, fennel seed (which adds a characteristic “Italian flavor”), and as mentioned previously, balsamic vinegar, are all suitable and perfectly acceptable additions to the sauce. The herbs should be dried, rather than fresh, while a sprig of fresh basil, if available, may be used as garnish.

Sauce is best made from tomato paste, not from already-made tomato sauce, because by so doing, you can adjust it to your desired level of consistency, of thickness, whereas with prepared (canned) tomato sauce, one must simply take it as it is. Likewise, canned diced and/or crushed tomatoes, even fresh diced tomatoes, may, and should be used. Water, or stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef), are both equally acceptable options to use as a base to prepare the sauce.

And finally, let’s talk about cheese!

5.) Cheese

If you choose to, many cheeses may be added to spaghetti, almost always as a topping. Soft cheeses, such as Colby, cheddar, mozzarella, etc., can be applied to a dish of baked spaghetti, but I want to focus upon the more traditional hard cheeses, like the traditional Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, Romano, and Asiago, that are, or can be, used to finish a dish of spaghetti.

First of all, DO NOT PURCHASE any brand of “pre-grated” product claiming to be “Parmesan,” etc.

Why not?

It has cellulose added to it. That’s “cellulose” as in saw dust, wood chips, and the stuff used as an absorbent in diapers.

Yeah… THAT cellulose.

Just read the ingredients label. You’ll see it.

Do yourself a favor. Purchase ONLY blocks of those cheeses, and grate them at home.

You can thank me later.

A zester, or micro-grater is the perfect tool to use for grating the hard cheeses, though it’s not required. A simple, standard grater will work just as well. You’ll just have larger pieces. And GUARANTEED, you WILL MOST DEFINITELY notice a SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT in the taste!

And YES, the hard cheeses will melt.

So now, you can GET TO IT!

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