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So I've bought a store-made pasta salad and I've tried to recreate it at home.

It consists of Penne and a tomato dressing, fairly simple, however no matter how hard I try I can't emulate the exact texture of the pasta of the store-bought salad.

At first I thought it was because I overcooked the pasta, but I was pretty certain I didn't. But to be sure I tried several different cooking times on several different batches of the same pasta.
To no avail, the texture I am after still eludes me. The texture of the store bought is soft, yet slightly firm and has a pleasant chewiness to it.

I checked the ingredients on the back of the pasta salad and it says the pasta is made out of Durum Wheat Semolina (and water), this is the same ingredient as the pasta I used is made from.

So now I am left wondering what the difference in texture could be down to; any ideas?

  • undercook the pasta a little bit; do not rinse the pasta; mix the ingredients while the pasta are hot; use a little bit more salt and spices than usual (cold dishes need more "punch"; – Max Jan 11 '15 at 17:57
  • @Max, your comment should be an answer. You have posted information that answers the OP's question about texture plus other information that may help achieve the desired results. Please format it and enter as an answer. :) – Cindy Jan 11 '15 at 18:05
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    One extra hint: Try adding a dash of vinegar to the water. This allows the acid to flavor the pasta. It seems to change the texture a slight bit, but I have no clue, why or if this works for all kinds of pasta. Otherwise: @Max has given the essential points. – Stephie Jan 11 '15 at 19:04
  • I once heard that batch cooked pasta is done in a steamer rather than boiling water. Might be worth trying, I know it certainly changes the mouth feel. Whether or not it's what you are looking for, I'm not sure. – Doug Jan 11 '15 at 20:05
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    Brand matters in pasta. It may be the one company grinds their Durum Wheat Semolina finer than another, or gets their supply from the Northern vs the southern Caucasus, but for whatever reason, some brands will usually cook up firmer and less foamy than others. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 11 '15 at 20:27
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Expanded from the comments...

Use properly salted water when cooking the pasta.

Slightly undercook the pasta a little bit; the pasta will continue to cook as you prepare the salad.

Do not rinse the pasta.

Mix the ingredients while the pasta are hot; they will absorb more flavour; I would try to season the pasta before adding oil; since oil will tend to coat the pasta and will block the seasoning from being absorbed.

Use a little bit more salt and spices than usual (cold dishes need more "punch".

Good luck and have fun experimenting.

  • I shall try this and report back – seeker Jan 11 '15 at 19:08
  • Just a little note - In this case "slightly" would mean "very, very, very slightly", because the temperature will be very quickly brought down by the salad ingredients. – Jolenealaska Jan 11 '15 at 19:17
  • Another possible thing to try -- there are recommendations for gluten free pastas to keep them firm to soak them first before cooking. (it'll also shorten the coking time; sorry, can't find the website I learned the trick from, but see The Food Lab). Another alternative is to ice it down after cooking – Joe Apr 1 '16 at 14:13
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Different brands of pasta could result in different textures. Have you tried to determine the store brand...or experimented with different brands? Ingredients might be the same...but quality, manufacturing and drying varies, influencing the end result.

  • That's on my list of things to try. – seeker Jan 12 '15 at 13:51

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