Choose the right sized pasta pot.
When we cook pasta, most commonly we use a stock pot. Pasta needs room, you want to allow space for pasta to expand while still staying submerged in water. An 8 quart stock pot will suffice for most pasta, but if you have a 10 quart, go ahead and use it.
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Fill it with plenty of water.
Most pasta will come with specific instructions on how much water to use. If in doubt, add a little more water before heating water. Adding water later in the cooking process brings down the temperature of the water, which can change cooking times.
Leave at least 2 inches below the rim of the stock pot, as water will bubble and splash when water is at a rolling boil.
Bring the water to a rolling boil.
When cooking pasta, you want to bring your salted water to a rolling boil. This means continuously rising, large bubbles. It should bubble like a witches cauldron.
Stir pasta into boiling water. Once pasta is added and water has returned to a rolling boil, heat can be turned from high to medium high.
Should you use a lid when cooking pasta?
Not really. You can put a lid on the pot while bringing the water to a boil. Once you have a rolling boil going, keep the lid off.
Cooking pasta with the lid on can increase the temperature of the water too much, causing cooking times to be off. It will also cause the water to boil over, which usually makes a mess of the stove.
Salt the pasta water.
Salting pasta water is one of the most important steps in this process. It can be done when filling the pot, or before adding the pasta.
This is the only way to truly season the pasta. As the pasta cooks, it will absorb salt, changing the flavor of the pasta enough to make every recipe a little bit better.
How much salt should you add to pasta water?
When you salt pasta water, don’t be shy. 1 – 2 tablespoons of coarse salt should be added to water before adding pasta to the pot. It seems like a lot, but it gets diluted by the water, and won’t add that much salt to the final dish.
Stirring the pot of pasta
You want to stir pasta as soon as you submerge it in boiling water, this will help the water get right back to the rolling boil.
Stirring will also prevent pasta from sticking together and ensure that it cooks evenly.
Continue to stir, periodically throughout the cooking process, usually every 2-3 minutes will suffice.
Cooking time for pasta:
What does al denté mean?
Al denté means “still firm when bitten” and it’s the best way to cook pasta. As with the necessary amount of water, the pasta package will usually instruct you on cooking times.
Always cook pasta to al denté per package instructions, unless otherwise instructed by a specific recipe, such as a baked pasta casserole or a one-pot meal which requires a different approach.
How to know when pasta is done
Use the package instructions as a guideline. Remove and test a piece or two of pasta as it’s cooking. Does it crunch still? Is it starting to get soft? Pasta should be cooked until firm to the bite, without any crunch. Eventually, if you cook it often enough, you will be able to tell without timing if pasta is ready to be drained.
But wait, reserve pasta water first.
Once pasta is cooked to al denté, you will want to remove about a ½ cup of starchy pasta water and set it aside. You can do this using a ladle or a glass measuring cup.
Have more questions about pasta water? Try reading our detailed guide. It has everything you need to know about pasta water. It truly is some magical stuff.
Drain pasta or remove it from the pot.
After reserving some pasta water, you should remove the pasta from the water. Using a colander, drain pasta into sink. Alternatively, you can remove pasta from the pot, leaving the water behind. Whichever you prefer is fine, you just need to remove the pasta from the water so it does not continue to cook.
Do not rinse cooked pasta when draining.
Which pasta sauces work best?
Once your pasta is cooked, add your choice of pasta sauce. Need some recommendations? Check out this nice little list of our favorite pasta sauces. Whichever sauce you choose, don’t forget to add some pasta water!
Cooking pasta for macaroni salad?
Skip rinsing cooked pasta for cold salad. Allow the pasta to cool on its own. You do not want to rinse away the loosened starches on the cooked pasta. If you are not prepared to toss pasta in salad dressing yet, give it a drizzle of olive oil. Olive oil will prevent pasta from sticking together. Plus, oil will likely mix fine with whatever dressing you are using for your salad.
Can you freeze cooked pasta?
Yes, it will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you are freezing plain cooked pasta, make sure to toss in olive oil before freezing.
Let’s talk cooked pasta calories
Pasta has a bad reputation for being unhealthy, but it’s not. How healthy pasta is truly depends on what kind of sauce you serve it with and there are plenty of good choice out there in the recipe world.
A serving of plain pasta, when boiled in salted water, only has about 210 calories and less than 1g of fat. It is a high carb food, but it is low in natural sugars. And for those of you who are watching sodium levels, you can adjust the salt measurements during the cooking process.
Things to avoid & Common myths about cooking pasta
- Never rinse cooked pasta. Rinsing pasta removes the important starches released when cooking.
- Never add olive oil to water when boiling pasta. This will but a barrier between the pasta and the sauce you choose, causing it to not adhere.
- Never throw your pasta against the wall to test for doneness.
- Salt added to pasta water does not make water boil faster or slower, you would have to use a lot more salt to make it affect the water’s boiling point.
- 16 ounces dried pasta
- 4–6 quarts water
- 2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- In a large stockpot, bring water and salt to a rolling boil.
- Add pasta, stirring immediately.
- Cook pasta to al denté, according package instructions. This will vary between pasta brands and shapes.
- Remove ½ – 1 cup of pasta water using a liquid measuring cup or ladle, set aside. Use caution with hot water.
- Drain pasta.
- Serve with your favorite sauce.
- Method: Stovetop
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