Photo copyright M-J de Mesterton 2006
How to Salvage Overcooked Pasta
How do you tell when your pasta is overcooked? Break apart a strand of spaghetti or a piece of pasta, and if you do not find a whitish dot in the center, it is overcooked. Al dente (to the tooth) pasta will feel somewhat firm in its very core, rather than soft all the way through. How can you find out when your pasta is cooked enough? Italian cooks sometimes throw a piece of spaghetti at a wall, and if it sticks, they know it is sufficiently boiled.
Instead of dumping your overcooked pasta–the result of an emergency elsewhere while you should be watching the pot–drain it well and sauté it in butter, then add grated cheese if you wish. It will have a toasted flavor and stiffen up a bit if you brown it as shown. Sautéed in butter or olive oil, overcooked spaghetti or pasta can have a nice texture. You may even add the sauce of your choice after it is browned. A little butter won’t kill you, but an Italian, faced with mushy pasta, might!