Once upon a time when I was a pastry chef, I sat down to a restaurant staff meal with two very well known fine dining figures who shall go unnamed. Dinner was simple: spaghetti with marinara sauce and a side salad.
“How is it?” the chef/owner asked us. His friend, an Italian chef with a reputation for being a perfectionist, praised the meal. “Wait until you hear how I made it,” said the owner.
The spaghetti was placed in a baking tray, covered with hot water from a tea kettle, and left to soak all afternoon. Everyone’s jaws dropped upon hearing this. It was in flagrant violation of everything any cook has ever learned about cooking pasta. No giant pot of boiling water or stirring was involved.
“But it’s good, no?”
This was his only defense, but it held water. So when I recently came across the Zevro Perfetto Pasta Cooker, I decided to give this unconventional method a go in my home kitchen. This gadget streamlines the aforementioned chef’s experiment. Instead of a large pan, an upright cylinder acts as a vessel for letting pasta soak in boiling liquid. Once your spaghetti has finished “cooking,” tip the tube over the sink and let the water strain through a mesh cap.
But is the finished product actually tasty? Put all your preconceived notions aside as you read about the results.
The Zevro Perfetto Pasta Cooker is clever in theory and easy to operate. Simply pour boiling water into the thick, scratch-proof plastic tube, add pasta, and snap the mesh cap over the top. A second solid cap covers the straining holes and keeps heat trapped in while the noodles cook.
A clever plastic key is included to help measure portions or spaghetti (or any long noodles) for one, two and three people.
Dry whole wheat spaghetti — notorious for long cooking times — took a 10-minute bath before relaxing into perfect al dente strands. The product manual warns to use gloves while handling the cooker, but by the time the pasta was ready to strain, it was cool enough to touch with bare hands. The noodle swished around in the tube and there wasn’t a trace of gumminess or sticking.
A second test with traditional elbow macaroni yielded the same results.
The cooker has a few other perks that you may not notice at first glance. The hardcore environmentalist will like that it uses 70 percent less energy and at least 50 percent less water than traditional pasta cooking methods. And the absent-minded cook will never have to worry about a pot boiling over.
Initial impressions included doubt and fear. A limited 90-day warranty made me wonder if this product was prone to quick damage, and repeated warnings about the safety hazards of playing with boiling water is something no one wants to see when all he or she wants is a bowl of noodles.
And, unfortunately, the measuring key is only good for spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair and the like. Figuring out the proportion of boiling water to short pasta like bowties and ziti requires a guessing game. And even though Zevro claims that fresh pasta can be used, I wouldn’t recommend it. Egg-based noodles need tons of room to move in rapidly boiling water in order to avoid clumping.
Finally, there’s the issue of cooking time. Perfetto provides a vague, open range of 10-20 minutes. That’s double the time of stove-top pasta! You will occasionally have to pick a noodle out of the tube and throw it against the wall to see if it’s ready.
Just kidding. That old trick is a fallacy. Admit it, though — you’ve done the same with pasta made in boiling water.
A part of me can’t help but laugh and dismiss the Zevro Perfetto Pasta Cooker as gimmicky, but it really works. Unfortunately, I can think of few situations that call for owning it. Dorm rooms that forbid hot plates? Campers who prefer to lug a limited number of cooking tools? It might not hurt to own one just to see the priceless look on people’s faces when you tell them how dinner was made. Trust me. I’ve seen the expression. At the very least you can use it as a neat storage container for your dry spaghetti.
Zevro Perfetto Pasta Cooker, $15.26, amazon.com
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