FAIR LAWN, N.J. -- Many dry, packaged pasta and noodle dishes contain dual cooking instructions -- both conventional and microwavable. However, food-service or retail versions of pasta are not suitable for use in microwavable products, according to Rob Vermylen, vice president of A. Zerega's Sons, a custom pasta manufacturer here.
"Most pastas are too thick to be cooked in the microwave: They require more time and water than are available," said Vermylen. "To work in the microwave, pasta must be thinner. Thinner pasta will hydrate more quickly, while providing an al dente finished product," said Vermylen. Reducing the wall thickness decreases the cooking time. For example, standard elbow macaroni with a wall thickness of 0.034 inches requires 8 to 10 minutes in boiling water. A thin wall elbow, 0.025 inches thick, is fully hydrated in 4 to 6 minutes. The wall thickness can be reduced on a number of different shapes, but this requires special dies.
Vermylen also recommends modifying the pasta formulation to preserve the integrity of the thin-walled product and to maintain quality after cooking. Adding egg white, or albumen, helps to maintain the shape of the pasta. Glycerol monostearate reduces starch buildup in cooked pasta. Using disodium phosphate increases the hydration rate and decreases the cooking time. These three ingredients are included in the U.S. Standards of Identity for both macaroni and noodle products.