What's the term for cooking pasta to the point that it's firm, and not too soft?

And the answer: al dente.

In cooking, al dente describes pasta or rice that is cooked to be tender, but still firm. The term translates from Italian and literally means, "to the tooth."

Photo credit: twopeasandtheirpod.com.

Pasta is a dish enjoyed throughout cultures around the world. Whether it's cooked al dente or soft, draped in tomato sauce or topped with meatballs, pasta is loved for its versatility and the essential carbohydrates that it contributes to a meal. Beyond your standard angel hair or linguine, there are over 600 unique types of pasta in the world, with 1,300 different names documented. While the term "pasta" usually refers to Italian noodles, there are varieties of the dish from nearly every continent and culture on the globe.

Pasta is made from unleavened dough consisting of ground durum wheat and water or eggs. The use of durum wheat sets pasta apart from other forms of noodles – its high gluten content and low moisture make it perfectly suited to pasta production. To make it, the durum dough is pressed into sheets, cut into a variety of shapes, and cooked before serving.

Discovery of the dish is commonly attributed to Marco Polo; however, research has revealed that pasta was prevalent in Asia long before his arrival. Pasta was also gaining popularity in Italy in the 13th century independently of Polo's travels, so it's more likely that the dish began its circulation long before his time. And, regardless of its introduction, it was the warm Mediterranean climate of Italy that encouraged experimentation with fresh herbs and sauces, leading to the creation of the traditional spaghetti we know and love today (now we're making ourselves hungry).

Learn some incredible fun facts about pasta here.

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