Pasta is a universal food and anyone can cook it, right? Not exactly. While the process for cooking pasta seems as simple as dumping a box of pasta into a pot of boiling water and waiting for it to get soft, there is more to it than one might think. If you want to achieve the “al dente” pasta — the kind that is neither too mushy or too chewy — then there are more factors to consider. To help you navigate the not-so-simple art of pasta making, below are some guidelines to follow.
Use a Large Pot
A larger pot will allow the pasta to move around as it cooks instead of clumping together. Typically, you should aim for an eight to twelve-quart pot.
Add Plenty of Water to the Pot
If you are impatient, you may be tempted to use less water so it boils faster. However, you need to add enough water so the pasta is completely submerged and has the chance to cook evenly. You should add five to six quarts of water for a standard box of pasta.
Salt the Water
Most people simply sprinkle a dash of salt, but you should actually use at least a tablespoon of salt for your pasta. Adding salt to the water gives your pasta a wonderful flavor boost.
Bring the Water to a Full Boil
Although it is tempting to add your pasta when your water starts simmering, wait until you see a full, rolling boil. Otherwise, you may be left with some undercooked pasta.
Ensure you stir your pasta at least three to four times during cooking because this will prevent your pasta from clumping.
Test the Pasta in Advance
Check the pasta packaging for cooking times, but do not automatically assume that it is correct. About two minutes before the suggested time, try a piece of pasta to gauge how much longer it needs to reach perfection.
Save a Scoop of Pasta Water
When your pasta is finished cooking, save a single cup of pasta water and put it aside before you completely drain it. This starchy water can work wonders in sauces, binding the sauce and pasta together, and breaking down thicker sauces so they are less likely to clump at the bottom of your bowl.
With these easy tips in mind, you will be enjoying pasta that tastes just like it came straight out of an Italian kitchen!