How to Cook Pasta
To learn how to cook pasta is not an option.
Yes, we love pasta and would use if from clothing to building structures!
Nonetheless, to fulfill its primary use, one needs to first know how to cook pasta.
This in NOT something you can avoid, defer or simply overlook as non important or negligible.
If you are to be a real italian traditions and food lover... you need to practice what you preach.
To tell you the truth, the pasta cooking test is possibly one of the safest one to distinguish Italians from the rest of the World: to know how to cook pasta is rule number one of the italian food basics.
Let's get to it then!
The Golden Rule
As natural and straightforward as it seems, even pasta cooking has its rules.
How to know for how long to cook it?
How to know if pasta is "al dente"?
Let's start with what I personally consider to be THE most important rule of the "how to cook pasta" body of knowledge: get this wrong and you are hardly going to enjoy what comes out of your own pot...
This is the "1, 10, 100 rule"! (I know, it probably sounds much fancier being based on the decimal system).
Let's have a closer look.
This is not a simple series of numbers, this is the math behind pasta cooking, it is the alphabet of your italian traditions.
- 1 - this is the quantity of water you use (1 liter)
- 10 - this is the quantity of salt to put in the water (10 grams)
- 100 - all the previous numbers refer to a quantity of 100 grams of pasta
That means that if you want to cook 250 grams of pasta, based on our golden rule you'd have to use:
- 2.5 liters of water
- 25 grams of salt
Why these proportions?
Well, this simple ratio helps your pasta in a few ways:
- first, it ensures that you don't put too little water (and not too much!) so that the pasta does not become a unique sticky mass
- second, that amount of salt will make sure that you won't eat an insipid dish... nor an overly salty one
So, next time you cook pasta, keep these numbers in the back of your mind.
Follow these simple steps, being mindful of the 1, 10, 100 rule to make sure you know how to cook pasta at its best:
- Fill a pot (prefer a large pot over a small and low one, the pasta will need to be fully covered by the water) with the needed amount of water (see previous paragraph) and place it on the stove with high heating.
- Wait until the water boils, then add salt and let it melt (it usually takes very little time, but you can stir quickly with a wooden spoon to further accelerate)
- Toss the pasta in the boiling water and give it a quick stir, to uniformly distribute it in the water.
- Keep stirring from time to time, to make sure pasta does not stick to the pot or with the rest.
- Let pasta cook considering the cooking time written on the package, but don't be number bound - at around a couple of minutes from the indicated time, take a piece of pasta from the pot and try it to check the cooking status.
- At this point, if the pasta is cooked to your taste (or acceptably "al dente"), drain it with a colander shaking it to expel the water in excess (do NOT however deplete completely the water, as the pasta might become too dry - for that, consider saving some of the water from the cooking pot).
- Now toss the pasta in the pan or whatever other recipient you placed the sauce or where you are going to dress it, at this point, stir and mix the pasta with the sauce (now, if the mix looks too dry, you might use the water saved before).
- The final step, before serving, is to keep stirring the pasta with the sauce on the heating so that the dressing rightly spreads and finishes cooking the pasta.
Now, for the last step, consider that pasta will keep on cooking; this means that if your pasta was cooked "to the point", before mixing it with the sauce, there is a risk that it becomes too soft and overcooked, in a simple word "scotta"
Some Do's and Dont's on How to Cook Pasta
- Never, ever, ever toss pasta in the water BEFORE it boils: you want your pasta to cook evenly and in a uniform manner, not to possess a varying grade of consistency and texture.
- Don't blindly follow what's written on the package, it's better to start draining the pasta when it is a bit more al dente rather than when it is "right to the point". Remember that the pasta will keep cooking, both because of its internal heat and because of the mixing with the sauce.
- Do NOT add salt to the water AFTER the pasta, if the water is not evenly salted, neither would be the pasta.
Read More Myths About Cooking Pasta and About Italian Food in General
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