Pasta cooking in a pot of boiling water

How to Cook Pasta Perfectly

Cooking pasta is something you’ve probably done hundreds of times. But have you ever stopped to think if you were doing it “correctly”?

Sure there are directions on the packaging, but what if you could elevate the taste of your pasta just by adding a few steps?

Keep reading, because Dagostino Pasta Company has the best kept secrets to cooking pasta perfectly.

    How do you properly cook pasta?

    Properly cooking pasta is a pretty straight forward process. 

    You should start with 4 to 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil. It’s important to place pasta into already boiling water. This will help maintain its shape and texture and will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy. 

    You should be cooking pasta to “Al Dente”. Al Dente means “to the tooth” in Italian, and refers to the texture pasta should be served. Perfect pasta texture should be tender yet firm.

    Once your cooking water is boiling add salt and your pasta. Then let your pasta boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking together.

    Once pasta reaches Al Dente, drain and rinse. Rinsing will cause the pasta to stop cooking and remain Al Dente. It’s optional to coat pasta with olive oil, but it will prevent your pasta from sticking.

    How long do you cook pasta for?

    Reaching Al Dente for typical dried pastas like spaghetti takes about 7-8 minutes. Keep in mind that fresh hand-made pasta will reach Al Dente quicker, in about 2-3 minutes. 

    Cooking times for pasta will range depending on the pasta shape and thickness. For example, Dagostino angel hair pasta will cook to Al Dente in about 2-3 minutes. This is because it is a fresh hand-made pasta and it is a very thin cut.

    Dagostino’s specialty shaped pastas, like our fleur de lis pasta are a much thicker cut of pasta. This means they can take up to 7 or 8 minutes to cook to Al Dente.

    Do you cook pasta in boiling water?

    It’s better to start cooking pasta once your water reaches a rolling boil. When you place pasta into already boiling water, because it will help maintain its shape and texture and will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy. 

    When pasta is placed into boiling water, the surface will cook quicker and allow them to “set” in place and produce a firm outside texture. Once this happens, the center of the pasta will rehydrate, and become soft and tender. This is how pasta reaches the firm structure known as “Al Dente”. 

    Cooking your pasta in water before it starts to boil won’t ruin it, but it's much better to start after the boiling starts.

    To rinse or not to rinse?

    There’s a lot of debate on whether or not you should rinse pasta with cold water after it’s drained. It really depends on the cooking process of the pasta. Rinsing pasta after it’s drained is a technique that lowers the temperature and halts the cooking process. So if your pasta is already cooked to Al Dente once it’s drained, you should rinse with water to avoid over cooking. 

    However, if your pasta is slightly undercooked (or if you're planning to continue to cook it within a sauce) you shouldn’t rinse after draining. Leaving the pasta at the same temperature will let it cook fully until it reaches the perfect texture.

    What are the five steps to cooking pasta?

    Here are five general steps to cooking pasta perfectly:

    1. Place a pot of water on the stove on high heat. Bring the water to a rolling boil. 
    2. Add a generous amount of salt to your cooking water. Salting the water adds a flavor to your pasta so it’s not completely relying on your sauce for flavor.
    3. Add the Pasta. Let it boil while stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Boil according to packaging directions or until cooked to “Al Dente”. 
    4. If you’re unsure about how long to cook your pasta, periodically lift a few pieces out of the boiling water carefully. Taste them to check their texture and determine if they're done.
    5. Lastly, drain the pasta with a strainer and combine with sauce.

    Pro tip: if your sauce isn't finished yet, lightly coating the pasta in olive oil will prevent it from sticking together.

    Try these tips the next time you make pasta and let us know if you learned something new!

    Buon Appetito!