How to cook the perfect pasta

Do you add oil to the water when cooking pasta? If you do, then stop; it’s a big no-no that would have Nonna tearing her hair out! Here’s what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to this pantry favourite.

January 6, 2022
  1. Make sure your pot is big enough. Pasta needs room to move around in the water. If you try to squish a whole bag into a small saucepan of boiling water, you’ll have a high starch-to-water ratio and be left with clumpy, sticky pasta (not to mention a messy stove top when the saucepan boils over).  The rule of thumb is about three litres of water to every 250g of pasta.
  1. Always salt the cooking water – it’s the only opportunity to season the pasta itself.
  1. Make sure the water is boiling before adding the pasta to avoid a soggy mess. Give the pasta a couple of stirs while it’s cooking, to make sure it separates.  
  1. When boiling pasta, don’t add oil! The oil will stop the sauce from sticking to it.
  1. Al dente is when the pasta is cooked so that it is chewy and firm, and will hold its shape, whatever sauce you serve it with. No one likes mushy pasta so use the cooking time listed on the pasta packet (it’s there for a reason!). Once you’ve hit the lower end of the time range, start testing the pasta until it’s just al dente and then drain immediately.
  1. Don’t rinse the pasta! The starch in the water is what helps the sauce stick to your pasta. Rinsing pasta will cool it and prevent it soaking up the sauce. The only time you should ever rinse your pasta is when you are going to use it in a cold dish like a pasta salad. In this instance, rinsing the pasta helps to stop the cooking process.
  1. Before you discard the pasta water, save a cup, and set aside. As you’re tossing the pasta with the sauce, add a splash or two of the pasta water. It will help loosen up the sauce, and its starchiness helps the sauce cling to the pasta.
  1. Does your pasta sauce call for butter? Add it at the end of the cooking process. If you add it early, the flavour will disappear and all that’s left is the fat.  
  1. Add cheese just before serving. You don’t want to cook it and potentially lose some of its flavour.
  1. Do not over sauce! All you need is just enough to coat the pasta.
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