3 Steps to Cooking Perfect Pasta
This is probably one of the most important posts I’ll write. It’s a concept that seems simple and intuitive, “cooking perfect pasta”, but most people don’t get it right and have probably never even thought about it. Does this scenario sound familiar? You boil some water, throw the pasta in the pot, and wait…um…about 6…maybe 7…ok, 9 or 10 minutes…depending on how many interruptions occur in the kitchen that night. You are thinking, “Doesn’t all pasta cook and taste about the same?” No friends! Absolutely not! You need these 3 steps to cooking perfect pasta!
Perfectly cooked pasta is the start to a perfectly wonderful pasta dish and meal. The flavor and texture of the pasta must be just right or the rest of the recipe and ingredients will not matter. No one wants to eat a delicious sauce over sticky, gummy pasta! You can’t cover it up folks. I promise!
So, below are 3 simple steps to cooking perfect pasta. If you follow them, I have confidence you will always be delivering the best pasta taste to your family and to your guests.
- Cook pasta in lots of water!
When cooking pasta, you must use enough water, and most of us don’t. The rule of thumb is about 4 quarts of water (one gallon) for every pound of pasta. That may sound like a lot – but you need it! Why? Some of the water gets absorbed and evaporated during the cooking process, and having enough water allows the pasta to move around and not stick together. Using too little water crowds the pot and can make the pasta gummy.
How do you measure 4 quarts of water? Great news…you only have to do this once. Take an empty gallon of milk and fill it with water. Get out your various selection of pots, and fill each one with a gallon of water. The water level should not exceed more than about ½ way up the side. You can finally identify your “perfect pasta pot” right now and never have to think about it again! My favorite and perfect pasta pot is the one in the middle pictured below. It is an 8 Quart pot, which makes sense because 4 quarts of water fills is about mid-way. The white pot on the left is a bit big, but can work. My good ‘ole college pot on the right (that I use constantly) is really just too small for cooking pasta. It is worth buying an 8 quart pot for this reason. They can be found often at a good price at Marshalls, TJMaxx, HomeGoods, Bed Bath and Beyond, or for ease order on Amazon. They are a good investment and very useful for soups and stews too!
Also two “nevers” when cooking pasta: Never use less than 3 quarts of water regardless of the quantity of pasta. And never cook more than 2 pounds of pasta at a time…it’s very hard to cook properly. Also, a best practice is to stir your pasta once at the beginning to help avoid sticking, and stir occasionally while cooking.
- Salt your water.
Salting your water enhances the pasta’s flavor and seasons it simply. Salting is an option that I used to not do myself, but once I discovered the real value in taste, it’s a rule I’ll never break! How much salt exactly? Italians like to say make it “salty like the ocean”. I recommend 1 ½-2 Tablespoons per pound of pasta. By the way, the pasta does not absorb all the salt in the water…most of it washes away when you drain the pasta! With this quantity you get the benefit of the added flavor without using up your daily limit of salt. 🙂
Salt can bring your pasta to life! Well-seasoned pasta is the basis for any pasta recipe. In fact, a little olive oil and fresh Parmesan can be added to perfectly cooked and seasoned pasta for a deliciously simple and flavorful dish. But, keep in mind that your sauce or other recipe ingredients may also add additional saltiness to your dish, so cut back as needed.
- Time and taste test your pasta. Do not overcook!
You’ve heard the phrase “Al Dente” when referring to perfectly cooked pasta. The translation means “to the tooth” in Italian. The texture needs to be “tender but firm” when you bite the pasta. There must be a slight resistance to the bite.
How to test your pasta? Look at the directions and taste test your pasta before the scheduled cooking time. If the directions call to cook between 6-8 minutes, beginning tasting at 5 minutes. Taste again every 30 seconds until done. Remember: tender but slightly resistant to the bite. Keep in mind that pasta does continue to cook after draining and can overcook, so pay attention be conservative when cooking. There’s nothing worse than eating mushy or gummy overcooked pasta.
1-2-3 EASY! With the right sized pot, the proper amount of water, some salt, and good timing, you are on your way to perfectly cooked pasta every single time! And that’s what makes this “entreprenoodle” very happy!
If you are interested in seeing all of our pasta shapes, you can visit The Pasta Shoppe website. And if you have any fundraising needs, please check out Fun Pasta Fundraising! We’d love to hear from you!Print
3 Steps to Cooking Perfect Pasta
Follow these 3 steps and make every pasta meal a success!
- Big Pot
- Lots of H2O
- A Smile!
- Cook pasta in lots of water! 4 quarts for every pound of pasta. Never less than 3 quarts no matter how much pasta you are cooking! Use a big pot. I recommend an 8 quart pot.
- Salt your pasta water. 1 1/2-2 tablespoons per pound. Less if your ingredients are also adding salt!
- Time and taste test your pasta. Begin 1 minute shy of the instructions, and taste test every 30 seconds. You are striving for “al dente” – tender but firm to the bite!
- Enjoy Perfect Pasta!