Tips and Tricks for Cooking Pasta
While it is as simple as boiling water, we're sharing our favorite tips and tricks for cooking pastas.
The size of your pot. The larger the better.
The amount of salt. The best way to tell if you have enough salt is to taste your water - you want it to taste salty but not quite like the sea. Also, make sure to stir your water to fully dissolve the salt.
Raging Boil versus slow boil/simmer to cook your pasta. While it is important to make sure your water has come to a full raging boil before you add your pasta, you do not want to cook it in a jacuzzi. After adding your pasta, reduce the heat to medium-high, transforming the boil into a slow rolling boil or heavy simmer.
Frozen versus Fresh Pasta. Filled Pastas and Gnocchi should always be cooked directly from frozen. Other pastas can be defrosted prior to cooking but it is not necessary. All cook times work from frozen.
Fluff the Pasta. The best way to help the pasta not stick together is to "fluff it". Once you have dropped your nest of noodles or section of pasta, let the boiling water and pasta do its thing for a minute or two. Then, using tongs, gently fluff the pasta to help the noodles or shape separate.
Adding oil to your water. An urban legend and a waste of good olive oil. To keep your pasta from sticking together, just give it a gentle stir for the first 30-45 seconds, then again periodically, about every 2 minutes. When draining the pasta, place it in a bowl and toss it with olive oil if you’re not immediately adding it to a sauce.
The importance of Al Dente. The only tried and true way to cook pasta perfectly every time is to TASTE IT. Technically “al dente” occurs when the white center of pasta (if you were to cut it in half) has just disappeared. While cooking the pasta of choice, first look at the recommended cooking window given: then take 2 minutes off of that. This is the time that you first want to begin tasting your pasta. Bite the piece in half and check for that “floury” inside. If it is there, allow the pasta to cook for another minute. Then taste again. Repeat this until you are happy with the texture.
Everyone has a different idea of what Al Dente truly means to them. When selecting the degree of al dente keep in mind the use for the pasta. Ask yourself: am I going to cook it again in the oven? Am I going to simmer it for a quick minute with my sauce? Cooling it down for pasta salad? All of these questions will change by 1-3 minutes how long you are cooking the pasta. Take your time and taste, there’s no better tool/tip than that.
Pasta Water is liquid gold. Do you want to take your pasta cooking skill up a notch? Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water per portion of pasta/number of servings. When combining your pasta and sauce add half of it and bring to a simmer. Stir together gently until it’s thickened slightly.