Think you know how to cook pasta? Think again! This guide shares seven top tips for cooking pasta as it was meant to be made.
How much water?
When cooking pasta, the amount of water you use relative to the amount of pasta counts. The rule of thumb is: 1 litre water and 10g salt for every 100g pasta. (10g salt is equivalent to 2 teaspoons.) This means if you're cooking a 500g packet of pasta, you'll need a generous 5 litres of water and 50g salt!
Always choose a large pan to cook the pasta in so that it has plenty of room and doesn't stick together.
A watched pot never...
Don't think you can speed things up by adding pasta to the water before it boils! This will no doubt result in mushy, sub-par pasta. Be sure to wait for the water to be at a rolling boil before you add the pasta.
Resist the urge to break
Never break apart pasta before cooking. Many cooks break spaghetti or linguine in half before cooking, but this irreversibly alters the texture of the dish. Enjoy the pasta shape as it is!
Instead of breaking the pasta to submerge it under water, add the long pasta to your pan and wait till the submerged pasta softens and bends, then gently push the rest under water.
Cooking time varies
When in doubt, use the packet timing as your guide. But the rule of thumb is 2 to 5 minutes for egg pasta, and 7 to 18 minutes for semolina pasta. The best way to tell if your pasta is al dente? Taste it!
Cook and serve
Pasta should be cooked just before it is served. Never cook pasta in advance and reheat just before serving - your result will be sticky and likely overcooked if you reheat it.
Step away from the tap!
When draining your pasta in a colander, resist the urge to rinse the pasta under the running tap. This will wash away the precious starch that is needed to bind the pasta with the sauce. This holds true even for pasta salads; instead of rinsing, toss the pasta with a little olive oil and set aside to cool.
Sauce and toss
If using a pasta sauce such as a bolognese, cream, or tomato basil sauce, combine the drained pasta with the sauce in a large bowl, and gently toss together to evenly coat the pasta.
Finish in the pan
For a 'dry' sauce - such as a combination of sauteed veggies, or a simple pesto or garlic-oil sauce - transfer the pasta to the frying pan used to cook the sauce ingredients about 1 minute before the pasta is cooked to al dente. Add a ladleful of the pasta cooking water to the pan, and mix gently over medium heat, cooking for a further minute or so till the pasta is al dente.
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