When I sat down with the man behind the captivating series Mad Genius Tips, Justin Chapple, deputy editor in Food and Wine's test kitchen and food-hack extraordinaire, I knew I was in for a treat. Justin literally wrote the book on food hacks: Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks and 100 Delicious Recipes. I also knew I wanted to cut to the chase and ask Justin about his favorite mad genius tips for the most important food group: pasta. Unsurprisingly, as we chatted during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Justin shared two brilliant (and easy) hacks that will help save you time in the kitchen and take the flavors of your pasta to the next level. Keep these creative tips in mind the next time you plan on making your favorite pasta recipe for dinner.
1. Don't boil your pasta — cook it in the oven.
"My favorite mad genius tip for making pasta is to skip boiling the noodles. I love baked pastas; they're crowd pleasers and super easy. In my book, Mad Genius Tips, I teach you how to take everyday noodles like rigatoni or penne, and you just mix them in a big bowl with marinara sauce, meatballs, and cheese, and then you put it into a ceramic baking dish. Then just pour water over it — just enough to cover all the ingredients — then cover it with foil and bake it until the water is absorbed and the noodles are tender. When you boil noodles, they absorb a certain amount until they become al dente, and it's the same way if you bake them." Try it with the recipe pictured above, a four-cheese and sun-dried tomato baked pasta.
2. Toast your pasta for a deeper flavor.
"Another one that adds a really fun twist to a pasta dish is [to] spread the noodles on a baking sheet when they're dry, toast them until they're golden, and then boil them. It gives it a little bit of a toasty flavor and also gives it this chew that's really fun."
Travel and expenses for the author were provided by the Colorado Tourism Board for the purpose of writing this story.