I sometimes post about my Sunday Supper preparations. I think people should make something good and eat together on Sundays.
However, I have been feeling dreadful for a few days and the thought of food has left me … less than enthusiastic.
That said, I had received an email recently making the kind suggestion that when I make a tomato sauce for pasta, to think about putting a little of the water used to cook the pasta into the sauce. I was assured that it produces beneficial effects.
Yes, I know about that one. And I don’t do it very often.
And here it how it works… when it works, that is.
The addition of a little of the pasta water is a kind of liaison.
A liaison is a thickening agent which increases a sauce’s viscosity. In other words, a liaison prevents water and other things in the sauce from moving around.
Liaisons thicken sauces by suspending solids in them (which is what the starch method does), or by emulsifiers (a liquid suspended in another liquid, which is how you make hollandaise), or air in the liquid. Or even a combination of these, as in Bearnaise sauce.
So, the starch in the pasta water might (if there is enough starch in the water) help to thicken a loose or runny tomato sauce. The rows of sugar molecules in starch unbind in the liquid and recombine in larger bunches. And everything sloooows … dowwwwwn. Using tomato paste to thicken your sauce works because you are adding lots of particles to the liquid.
So, you need to use your wonderful tomatoes from you garden. You make sauce for your spaghetti. But, drat it, your sauce separates and gets runny even though you think you have cooked it down enough. Perhaps starchy pasta water can help a little bit in a pinch.
Of course the danger of using pasta water as a liaison is that it might not have enough starch in it to thicken your separating tomato sauce. You have just made your problem worse.
Another approach is to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce itself. That’s sure adds starch in a hurry! And it also helps the sauce to penetrate into the pasta. Remember: pasta will taste partly like the liquid you cook it in.
So, try cooking your pasta in a mixture of water and a little salt or vegetable broth or some other broth, use starchy water to thicken loose tomato sauces with great discretion, and perhaps finish your pasta in the sauce itself.
With that I hope my appetite will return soon.