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The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout


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The Pasta Reform

Graphic courtesy of Derek Marshall.

If you are reading this, I have come to the conclusion that reform is needed. The school pasta needs justice.

You may be wondering: what are you talking about? But you would be in the minority.

In my days at LFHS, the conversation regarding the school’s pasta has occurred time and time again. Many are frustrated for different reasons. Some students are upset about the fact that the noodles are sometimes cold, some are disappointed with the inconsistent sauces, and some can even be spotted choking on the breadstick. With this multi-faceted problem at stake, I think it would be best if we broke it down part by part.

Just to clarify, it is no single person at fault, but likely the process itself, that needs fixing.

The Noodle

This is arguably the biggest root of the pasta problem: the noodles. You are playing a game of Russian roulette every time you step into the pasta line, and you never know if you are going to get a good batch, or rather, a fresh batch.

There is a clear elephant in the room that plagues the pasta noodles: the semi-coldness and the chewiness. These characteristics lead one to question: is the pasta is being steamed? Sometimes in steamed pasta, not every piece gets its fair share of heating, which would explain the consistency of the noodles.

Adding on to the noodle dilemma, the same noodle is constantly being used over and over. Mr. Cavatappi is tired of his constant role that he never gets a day off from. I don’t expect a different noodle every day  – as I understand the school cafeteria is ultimately a business –  but using a noodle such as Farfelle, (who made a guest appearance one day last year) or Penne could be beneficial in drawing more customers who could be sick of the one trick pony noodle.

The Process

The pasta is prepared the day it is going to be served, where it is put into pans, filled with water, and finally it is topped with salt and oil, according to Food Service Director Mr. Jay Herr.  It is cooked in a steamer until it’s “al dente,” and then immediately put into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Finally, the pasta is taken out of the refrigerator right before lunch begins and quickly reheated in the steamer for service.

To argue for the benefits of this process, Ohio State University claims that a food ice bath can help prevent possible bacteria from growing, which is a great thing when considering the fact that we want students to trust the school cafeteria food. On the other hand, though, steaming the pasta could be sacrificing the taste, as it is known that undercooked pasta can be chewy. 

I then asked Mr. Herr if they have ever considered boiling the pasta rather than steaming it, and also questioned if it would improve the quality. 

“Boiling very large batches of pasta can cause it to overcook. Steaming is a more controlled method,” said Herr. 

This response ultimately provides a lot of clarification as to why the pasta must be the way that it is. Ultimately though, there is a way for this to be addressed. If the school were to provide more options for noodles, perhaps the noodles could be boiled, as they wouldn’t need to mass produce one individual noodle type. 

“Quest has offered several different options this year such as elbow macaroni, rotini, cheese tortellini, and ravioli. The Cavatappi noodle, due to its shape is one type that holds up the best for lunch service. We can definitely look into additional options for this next school year,” said Herr. 

Some of these options have already been featured, such as the tortellini and the ravioli, which can be argued to be better tasting than the main show.

The Sauce

The sauce’s main trouble is the fact that it don’t stick to the noodle. Steaming the pasta and then quickly dipping it into an ice bath can cause the pasta to lose some of its tasteful starches, which also prevent the sauce from sticking, as there is less starch to latch onto.

Herr also shared how the sauces are made. 

“The parmesan alfredo sauce is made with milk, heavy whipping cream, vegetable base, seasonings, and parmesan cheese. The marinara sauce is made with a blend of onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and seasonings blended together,” said Herr. “The meat sauce is made with fresh seasoned ground beef, and then our marinara sauce is added last to finish the cooking process. The Scout sauce for Lake Forest is a combination of marinara and alfredo mixed together.”

Overall, I think the recipe for the sauces is good, but a lot of these sauces seem to be lacking in the flavor factor. It is said that garlic is used in the marinara sauce, but I personally can barely taste it. I know many of my peers have believed the sauce to be a bit bland as well. The ingredients seem to be there, but maybe slightly increasing some of the flavoring could get it to a better state.

The Breadstick

If the breadstick was gone, dare I say the pasta line would be cut in half. Not because of how good it is, but just because it’s bread. 

“The breadsticks are warmed in an oven at high temperature with a mixture of butter and seasoning on them for flavor,” said Herr.

Nevertheless, though, the breadstick still needs major work. I’m not expecting state-of-the-art breadsticks, but maybe just a substitute for something more worthy. 

I’m not expecting state-of-the-art breadsticks, but maybe just a substitute for something more worthy.

Herr also addressed one of my major concerns: the breadstick being too hard and stale some days.

“We serve these in batches for each meal service to avoid becoming dry,” said Herr.

This leads me to believe that maybe it isn’t the process that is being used to cook the breadstick that is at fault, but maybe just the breadstick itself. A substitution could be needed.

A better substitution could be a garlic knot or garlic bread. Those who went to Deer Path Middle School will never forget the garlic bread served there, as it would fly off the shelves. I personally remember a friend and I begging to leave early from a class just so we could secure ourselves a piece – it was that good. It was so special that they had to stop selling the bread individually. This garlic was worth fighting for to the extent that it turned most people into gremlins.

“I would be happy to investigate the bread offerings at Deer Path and make this available for the upcoming school year,” said Herr.

Beyond the Criticism

Beyond the criticism, I am still a victim of the pasta. You will still be able to catch me in that line at least once a week if I’m being honest, and it always draws me back. Maybe it’s because it is consistently mediocre, so there’s comfort in something so complacent. Or maybe it is because I’m starving after five classes. Either way, I know I will continue to order.

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About the Contributor
Derek Marshall
Derek Marshall, Staff Writer

Joining The Forest Scout for his first year, junior Derek Marshall is excited to make a significant impact on the newspaper. Derek is on the Squash and Tennis team. Outside of school, Derek likes to hang out with friends and family.

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Comments (2)

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  • M

    MeMay 24, 2024 at 9:20 am

    i like the breadsticks

    • J

      Jason KowalskiMay 29, 2024 at 12:16 pm

      So did I, but I also welcome the new garlic bread.