When is Pasta Al Denté?

I’ve always heard the Italian term “al denté”  and basically knew what it meant.  It wasn’t until observing  Italian Chef, Lorenzo Boni, demonstrating on behalf of  Barilla Brand Pastas during the two-day festival ” Taste of Atlanta”, that it was driven home as he went into depth on “al denté”.  I couldn’t wait to get home and make my version of this pasta dish.

Chef Lorenzo Boni demonstrating at Taste of Atlanta

Basically, al denté means to cook just under soft. In other words enough firmness to give “chew” to the pasta. Obviously, not tough but not softened.  All that aside, Chef Boni’s tip for good pasta is to remove the pasta from the water just under al denté.  So, if the directions on the box say 10 minutes, cook for eight.   Then, add the pasta to a pan of vegetables or sauce so the pasta can marry the flavors and continue cooking for about a minute longer.  If the pan of pasta and vegetables seem “tight” , add a bit of water from the pan of pasta.  This part is hard for me to remember because I have one of those pan’s that has a lid with holes in it.  In my scenario, I need to remove a cup of water before I turn over the pan with the holey lid.

Do you ever have trouble removing the pasta from the pan to the plate without the pasta slippin’ and slidin’ everywhere but onto the plate?  Here is a good tip.  Take a large two prong Serving Fork along with a Ladle and pick up the pasta and place in the ladle. Now twirl until all the pasta is in the ladle  as Chef Boni demonstrates in the photo below.

This twirling method really works.

For the dish plated in the featured image above, the following is the mise en place of ingredients.

One Butternut Squash, halved then quartered. Remove seeds, Cut elongated slices of squash from within the rind then cut into chunks.
One Zucchini halved then quartered and cut into chunks.
One Eggplant cut into chunks
Four to five Plum tomatoes cut into chunks.  (Alternative)  One can of San Marzano or Muir Glen Brand of Chopped Tomatoes.
One clove garlic, minced.
One medium yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced.
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Basil
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese

Place the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast in a preheated oven at 425°F for approximately 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the water for the pasta should be close to boiling. Be sure to add salt to season the pasta.  Add the pasta when the vegetables have been roasting ten minutes.

After 15 minutes remove the vegetables from the oven and place into a heated sauté pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta is just under “al denté” add to the vegetables and mix well.  Add a scoop of pasta water to the pan to moisten the vegetables and pasta.

After serving onto a plate, sprinkle with a little fresh basil and grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese.

Buon Appetito!

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About Pam Rauber

Photographer, Writer, Home Chef.
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