The pasta formula seems so obvious. Water * ( pasta + timer) = dinner – right? But sometimes the things that are supposed to be the simplest turn out to be the trickiest.
Turns out the window for pasta perfection – not stuck together, neither soft nor hard in the center – is thin. And then there are all the other factors to consider. Should you add salt to the water? Or oil? And cold water rinse at the end?
Despite the fact that it comes in a printed box with cooking instructions and will be ready in less than twenty, cooking pasta is pretty easy to mess up. If you get too distracted checking your ex’s Instagram on your phone, you may end up with a bowl full of soft noodles, or sub-salted noodles or noodles whose gravy drops like an ill-fitting costume. But heed these five little tips, and you’ll be so proud of your pasta moves you’ll throw a noodly big dinner party. to show them. Don’t throw spaghetti on a wall – it really isn’t necessary. Your walls deserve respect too.
Pasta makes the world go round – Make it the best way
If you’re feeling dizzy, take a deep breath and let go of the pasta panic. We’ve rounded up the best and easiest tips for making great pasta every time.
1. Make sure your cooking water is salty like the sea and almost as plentiful
Forgetting to salt your water will result in tasteless pasta, and you’ll have to overcompensate by over-salting your sauce – that’s not a good thing. Pour water into a large saucepan so that your pasta has enough room to move, then salt it generously: it should taste like seawater, not disgusting but definitely salty. Add your pasta once your water reaches a boil.
Use a large pot
Choose a spacious pan that gives the pasta enough space to move. Now is the right time to put this eight or 12-liter pot into action.
2. Check the cooking time of the packaging, but do not trust it too much.
Most mass-market pasta will tell you to overcook your pasta. I don’t know why but this is how our country works! So if you’re cooking Barilla variety pasta, check it a few minutes before the box says it will be done. (Enjoying your food as it cooks is one of the best ways to become a better, more competent cook.) You want to cook your pasta al dente, which means it will have a bit of bite – an old boss of mine compared the experience of biting a stick of chewing gum. It looks a little more when cooling, and even more if you mix it with sauce in a hot pan, which is always a good idea.
Fill the pot with plenty of water
You want five or six liters of water for a standard 16 oz. package of pasta.
When you’re hungry and want to access the spaghetti time statistic, you might be tempted to use less water, so it boils faster. Do not do that. Just like pasta needs a spacious pot, it needs a lot of H2O to completely submerge each strand.
Here is a tip for boiling water faster. Put a lid on the pot, but keep it partially uncovered so that you can hear when the water starts to boil. Leaving a gap will also help prevent the water from boiling before lowering it.
3. Reserve some pasta water
The pasta water is the glue that will hold your final dish together; learn how to use it. When pasta cooks, it leaches out the starch, which is why your cooking water is a little cloudy when you drain it. This starch helps make your sauce stick to your pasta (much like edible Velcro). Before draining your pasta, pour in a quarter cup for each serving, then splash it in when you combine the pasta and sauce. If using a sauce, add a few splashes of pasta water to a pot, then add your pasta and cook until combined.
Salt the water
Salt it well! Don’t just give a single tap of the shaker – you want at least a tablespoon for every 6 liters of water. In fact, one chef we know uses 2 tablespoons of coarse salt for every 6 liters of water! You want it to be salt seawater. Not that we were going to sip the sea, blech.
But saltwater is essential as it enhances the flavor of the pasta.
4. Never, never rinse
Remember what we learned about starchy pasta water and how good, important, and precious it is? Rinsing your pasta with water in a colander strips it of its starch. There is literally no reason for that.
Bring the water to a full boil
Again, don’t let the hanger dip you into the pasta when the water is barely simmering. You want a vigorous boil. Remember that the pasta will cool the temperature of the water once you put it down. To bring the water back to a boil faster, put the lid back on.
5. Finish your pasta in its sauce
If you just want to dress your pasta with a little olive oil and maybe some Parmesan, you can skip this step. But if you’ve planned some sort of sauce – creamy, tomato, whatever – finish your dish by cooking your pasta and sauce together, with some of that pasta water you reserved. It’s not a sandwich, after all – the sauce and pasta shouldn’t be layered on top of each other, but well combined.
Stir to prevent pasta from sticking
Don’t stray from the stove to check Insta or see what people are tweeting, or sit down to watch another episode of Game of Thrones. You are on pasta duty, folks! Stand guard and stir the pan at least two or three times during cooking.
Do not let the strands clump together. They should swirl, free, and free.
Test the pasta two minutes before it is “ready”
Check the packaging of the pasta for cooking times. This is where it gets tricky. Have you ever noticed that the instructions give a time range? For example, regular dry spaghetti takes 6-8 minutes. Or is it 5-7 minutes? Or 10 to 12? Depends on packaging and pasta.
Final Pasta perfection tips
Cooking times may vary depending on the shape, amount, and type of pasta (whole wheat, gluten-free, etc.). Use the cooking time suggested on the package as a suggestion, not as a gospel.
Unlike dried pasta, fresh pasta only takes two or three minutes cooking, max. It’s more complicated to cook than to dry, so keep it until you are dry.
Stuffed pasta, like ravioli, will rise to the surface and float when ready.
Do not add oil to the pasta water. Some cooks mistakenly assume that a drop of olive oil will keep the strands from sticking together. But that’s nothing that a good stirring won’t fix, and the oil might leave your pasta too smooth for the sauce to stick.
Do not rinse your pasta after cooking is finished. This washes away all the happy starches that bind it to the sauce.
Now that you’ve learned the classic method, we’re going to wow you with this new way of cooking pasta in a sauté pan with a little water. It totally defies everything we have learned!