Maybe you’re thinking, “Seriously, Lisa?  How to cook pasta? Puhlease”  Yes, it’s pretty easy but there are a couple of myths and falsehoods about cooking pasta (adding oil to the water, throwing the spaghetti on the wall to see if it sticks) that I thought it warranted a short discussion.  Read below to cook perfect, al dente pasta every time.

Start with a large and wide pot, which will help the pasta cook evenly.   If the pot is too small, the pasta will stick and not cook right.  Fill the pot with water – at least 1 quart of water for each 1/4 lb of pasta (at least 1 gallon for 1lb of pasta). 

Bring the water to a rolling boil.  Once the water is boiling, and before adding the pasta, add salt; salt enhances the flavor of the pasta.  A fair amount of salt is needed for the best tasting pasta – about 1 tablespoon per quart of water, or 1/4 cup of salt for a gallon of water.  

After adding the salt, and once the water is back to a rolling boil, add the pasta and immediately give it a good stir to separate it.  Lower the heat slightly; the water should continue to boil though.  Stir it regularly to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Most packages of pasta include cooking times on them.  You can use that as a guide but don’t forget a taste test.  Take out a piece before the cooking time is up and taste it; you are looking for a certain texture – not hard, but firm and chewy…al dente.  And remember, pasta will continue to cook even after it is taken out of the boiling water.  So while you don’t want it to break your teeth, you do want it to be firm.

Some chefs would say that you shouldn’t drain pasta into a collander.  I’ve heard pasta water referred to as “liquid gold”.  It contains all the starch from the pasta and will help the sauce adhere better to the pasta.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I drain my pasta, sometimes I don’t.  It usually depends on what sauce I am using. With a tomato sauce, I drain the pasta, return the pasta to my pot, then add the sauce on top of it.  With a oil based sauce, I typically add the pasta (using a slotted spoon) right into the sauce and sometimes even add a ladle-full of the pasta water in as well.   In either case, don’t ever rinse it.  This will make the pasta soft and destroy it’s flavor.

This way of cooking pasta is the same for dry pasta or fresh pasta, though the cooking times would differ.  Fresh pasta does not take as long as dry pasta to cook.  I hope you find this helpful.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them for me below.

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