Cooking pasta is a very simple step to most dinners and meals. It’s probably something you’ve done countless times without a second thought. But what if we told you could cook pasta like the Italians do with a few simple steps? Keep reading for the simplest ways to elevate your pasta cooking skills
Instructions on how to Cook Pasta
The basic guide to cooking pasta is five simple steps.
- Place a large pot of water on the stove and set to high heat. Wait until the water reaches a rolling boil.
- Add salt to your boiling water, about a palmful. This is an optional step (unless you’re Italian) but salting the water adds flavor to the pasta. This will keep your pasta from relying on a sauce for all the flavor!
- Add the pasta to the boiling water. Let the pasta cook according to the directions on the packaging, usually when the pasta reaches “Al Dente”. Stir the pasta occasionally to prevent sticking.
- If there’s no recommended cooking time or if you’re boiling homemade pasta, an easy way to tell if your pasta is done is by lifting a piece of pasta out every so often and tasting. What you’re looking for is the “Al Dente” texture, which should be tender yet still firm.
- The Last step is to drain your pasta. Rinse your pasta with cool water to halt the cooking process and add to your desired sauce. If your pasta sauce isn't ready yet, drizzle some olive oil onto the pasta and toss like pasta salad. This will keep the pasta from sticking.
Learn more about what it takes to cook pasta perfectly.
How types of Pasta cook Differently
Dry pasta cooks very differently from fresh pasta, and it’s important to know this before cooking!
Dry mass-produced pastas typically take the longest to reach Al Dente after you bring the water to a boil. This is due to two reasons, the cut of mass-produced pasta and the drying process.
Mass produced pastas are cut using inexpensive Teflon dies, because they last for a very long time. However this process means that the pasta dough is cut quicker and creates heat damage to the surface of the pasta. When this happens the gluten is damaged and the resulting pasta has an affected texture and takes longer to reach al dente when boiling.
The drying process of mass-produced pasta is also sped up. The process includes drying pasta and very high heat for hours until the correct amount of moisture is removed. While this allows the pasta to have a longer shelf life, it also bakes the pasta and breaks down its gluten. This results in a brittle pasta that takes longer to cook.
Fresh pasta made with eggs takes the least amount of time to cook to al dente. This is because it’s traditionally hand cut and does not need to dry, so it starts boiling already containing moisture.
The middle of the road would be handmade pastas, such as Dagostino Pasta. Handmade pastas are cut using bronze die like fresh pastas are, and are slowly dried to prevent the pasta from becoming brittle but allowing it to be shelf stable.
Learn more about our slow dried pasta in our blog Why Slow Dried Pasta is Fantastic.
The Magic of Pasta Water
One of the best kept secrets in cooking pasta like a true Italian is the secret of pasta water.
After your pasta is finished boiling, take a measuring cup and reserve about 2 cups of pasta water. Then slowly add small amounts to your pasta sauce. This allows the pasta to merge and stick to the sauce better, making a cohesive pasta dish.
Some pasta recipes depend on pasta water to make the sauce, like this cheesy and savory pasta salad recipe.