Keep orecchiette from sticking together??
I love oriecchiette pasta, but every time I cook it, I find myself having to stand over the pot almost the whole time, frantically trying to stir things so that the litte ears don't stick together in stacks. I've even taken to prying as many stacks apart as I can, while everything's cooking - but even doing this, I *still* end up with some orecchiette overcooked and some undercooked because so many are all stuck together. I have tried putting both butter and/or olive oil in the water, but it doesn't make any difference. Suggestions?
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Just because the pasta comes from Italy, doesn't mean it is good. Italian food is regional, and northerners often know bupkes about southern Italian food. What are the ingredients? Maybe the pasta comes from up north, outside of orrechiette country, and something is just off. I am not sure how orrechiette is mass produced, but in making other pasta shapes, the better pastas are extruded through brass dyes. This produces pasta that has more texture to it than the new industrial grade pasta machines and helps sauces coat the pasta better. I don't know how it affects cooking the pasta, thoughh.
I asked about the ingredients in the pasta, because barley or farro flour would make the pasta stickier, but at the price you are paying, I doubt that those flours are part of the ingredients. Perhaps try a different brand. Puglia is orrechiette country, and I often see brands that come from Bari, so perhaps that might be an option. If you have a good source of southern Italian foods, try there. I am not familiar with the Tuscan store you mention, but Tuscany is not southern Italy, nor is it really pasta coutry--that is more bean country. Hope this helps get you in the right direction and I'd like to hear if you find a solution!
The water should be salty enough to taste like the sea (this is just general pasta cookery and not specifically about pasta sticking).
Never add olive oil or butter to the water - it's just a waste of money.
When the water comes to a hard boil, add the pasta and start stirring. I stir gently, scraping any pasta that's stuck at the bottom & dislodging any pasta that are stuck together, for about a minute or so, just until the pasta softens a bit and it's surface is slippery. You can tell when that happens. As you stir the pasta stops sticking to the pot and each other, like it's been lubricated even though you haven't used any oil or butter. Lower the heat until you've got a gentle boil. Then I stop stirring, start my timer. Half way through, I give the pot a few stirs as a way to check the cooking progress and make sure that nothings still stuck to the pot. When it's done, I just drain and proceed with my recipe.
There's always a few pasta that get stuck together and 1 or 2 to the pot, but the majority of the batch aren't stuck so that they're stacked together. This method works with all pasta.
Of course, I'm going under the assumption that you're using enough water (plus a little more just in case).