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Blog

Pasta 101 - How to Cook Perfect Pasta Every Time

Patricia Reitz

There's nothing more satisfying to me than perfectly cooked pasta.  It's a pretty simple task, but I find so many people are confused about how long to cook it, how much salt they should add, whether or not they should add oil, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, the first thing you have to do is start with a good brand of pasta.  Other than that, there are two major rules to remember - 1) season your water properly (should be salty like the sea), and 2) do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the pasta over cook.

Okay, time to cook so do like me:

For 1 pound of pasta, start with 1 gallon of cold water, and make sure your pot is large enough.  This is a 6 quart stockpot (for 2 pounds of pasta I would use a 12 quart stockpot).  Cover and bring to a boil.

When the water boils, add 1 ounce of salt (30 grams).  I weighed Kosher and fine sea salt - the volume was identical for both (4 1/2 teaspoons).

Controversial side note - you can add oil to the water if you like, but I don't.  Yes, oil will keep the starchy bubbles from boiling over, but if you use plenty of water and a big enough stockpot, you won't have to worry about it.  Some people say adding oil to the water helps keep the pasta from sticking together, but I disagree - the oil floats on top of the water, which does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together... and the oil disappears down the drain before the pasta even hits the colander, which doesn't keep the pasta from sticking either.  But hey, if you like to use it, go for it.

Add pasta to the salted water and give it a stir.  Boil until it's almost done cooking - use the time given on the package as a guideline.  The only guaranteed way to know for sure is to taste the pasta. 

photo courtesy of my son's fancy schmancy camera - I'm drooling

Pasta should resist a little when bitten.  This batch is going into some meat sauce so I'll remove it from the water a little early and allow it to finish cooking in the sauce.  Mangia-Mangia! 

Tip - if I plan to serve my pasta and sauce separately, I'll let it cook a minute or two more, drain, rinse the hot stockpot with cold water so the pasta doesn't continue to cook, add the drained pasta back to the pot, drizzle with a little olive oil, and stir well.  Pasta will hold like this for an hour or so, or it can be refrigerated for use later.

Perfect Pasta

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pound good dried pasta - De Cecco is my favorite, but I like Barilla and Ronzoni too
  • 1 gallon (16 cups) cold water
  • 1 ounce of salt (30 grams, or 4 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt)

Directions

  1. In a 6-quart or larger stock pot, bring water to a boil.
  2. Slowly add salt and stir to dissolve completely (otherwise the salt will pit the bottom of your stockpot).
  3. Add  pasta and stir occasionally to prevent sticking; continue cooking until pasta reaches "al dente"