I have been reading some old cooking magazines. Vogue Entertaining. Gourmet Traveller. Cucina Italiana.
I have a huge pile of them. I need to reduce that pile. But I can’t reduce the number without one more read.
I have loved these magazines, poured over them, cooked from them, read every word, every syllable.
And just once in a while, some amazing information comes forth. Like for example from a 1998 Cucina Italiana, on pasta.
You know that we read in every pasta recipe – the instruction to “cook the pasta until al dente“. It means “to the tooth“. This is a reference to the slight resistance that pasta should still offer to the teeth when it is perfectly cooked.
But did you know that correctly cooked pasta positively effects the digestibility of the pasta? Here is why:
When pasta is al dente it needs to be chewed longer than overcooked pasta. Longer chewing prolongs the action of ptyalin, an enzyme contained in the saliva which helps the organism to digest food.
So when my mother nagged me to chew my food more, to chew at least 100 times, she was right?
Furthermore, as pasta cooks, it absorbs water, which makes two things happen:
- first of all, the starch gelatinises and gathers in large agglomerates,
- and secondly, the protein polymerizes, forming complex structures that hold starch and prevent its dispersion in the cooking water.
Both of these phenomena increase as the pasta continues to cook.
As a result, the action of digestive enzymes on the starch and protein molecules is made more difficult, and digestion is prolonged.
All of which goes to show that what tastes good is often good for you.
Also, Suganya of Tasty Palettes says in one of the comments on this post that the longer the pasta cooks, the higher the glycemic index is.
Who would have thought? I found myself reflecting on how the right degree of “doneness” is determined for our food. Think about it. Over many centuries, by trial and error, methods and times for cooking were determined according to the taste, no doubt, but also the reactions on our bodies.
I had a conversation once with a young Indian boy growing up here in Australia, and who was adopting all of our Western Scientific/Intellectual ways and discarding many of the richness of his heritage. He was scathing about Ayurvedic approaches as being non scientific. In my view, centuries of trials and tests, observation and refinement, is absolutely a scientific approach.
Pasta with soul – pasta cooked to its absolute perfection, who would have thought even that was so scientific? Thank you to Cucina Italiana.
Read some more:
- Helen at the World Foodie Guide has a detailed post on how to cook pasta al dente.