Seems like a no-brainer, right? But there are certain “musts” when cooking pasta that people often don’t know about, and Italians wouldn’t do it any other way.
- Make sure you have plenty of water. A pound of pasta should go in a large stock pot. A half pound can go in a medium saucepan. This will ensure that the pasta cooks evenly and won’t stick together or to the bottom of the pan.
- Before the pasta goes in, put in lots of kosher salt- likely more than you think is necessary. If you quickly dip a finger in the water and taste it, you should be able to taste the salt in the water. If you can’t, add a little more.
- Don’t add oil to the water. This will coat the pasta, meaning the sauce will not cling to the pasta as it should. It will not keep the water from bubbling up over the top of the pot. If this happens, it is most likely because there is too much water in the pot, not enough space for the pasta to circulate, and the heat is too high.
- Save the pasta water. Before you drain your pasta, scoop out a cup or two of the cooking water- I use a pyrex measuring cup. This water has starch from the pasta, and is an invaluable ingredient for finishing the dish. Another trick is to just scoop out the pasta with a large slotted spoon or use tongs for larger pasta and put it directly in the sauce, that way I have plenty of cooking water left in the pot to tap into.
- Don’t rinse the pasta. It stops it from cooking and rinses away flavor and starch.
- Cook it until it is al dente, about 2 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time. Then, this is super important, put it directly in the sauce. They should meld together. Stir, and add enough cooking water so the pasta finishes cooking IN the sauce. Taste for seasoning, realizing the cooking water is well salted, and add salt only if needed.
- Serve immediately! Pasta waits for no one.