Cooking pasta is easy, but there are rules to pasta cooking that will lead to perfectly cooked pasta every time.
Time Required: 35 minutes
- Fill a pot with one quart (1 liter) of water per serving of pasta (1/4 pound, 100 g) you plan to make, and set it to boil.
- When the water comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of coarse salt (a little less if it's fine-grained) per quart of water. In terms of saltiness, it should resemble sea water.
- Check the pasta package for pasta cooking time. No time? See below.
- When the water comes back to a rolling boil, add the pasta and give it a good stir to separate the pieces.
- Stir occasionally to keep the pasta pieces from sticking to each other or the pot.
- A minute before the pasta cooking time is up, fish out a piece of pasta and check for doneness.
- Fresh pasta, especially egg pasta (fettuccine, tagliatelle, lasagna) cooks quickly, 3-5 minutes.
- Thin dry durum wheat (no egg) pasta (spaghettini, shells, rotini) cooks in 6-9 minutes.
- Thick-walled durum wheat (no egg) pasta (penne, ziti, spaghetti, tortiglioni, etc.) cooks in 12-15 minutes.
- You want an al dente, or chewy texture -- not flab. Taste, or break open a piece of pasta to test for doneness.
- If you see a thin white line or white dot(s) in the middle of the broken piece, it's not done yet.
- Test again, and as soon as the broken piece is a uniform translucent yellow, drain the pasta.
- Sauce the pasta per the recipe and serve it.
- To better wed the pasta to the sauce, put the sauce in a broad skillet and heat it while the pasta cooks.
- Drain the pasta when it's just shy of done and stir it into the skillet before the colander stops dripping completely.
- Toss the pasta and sauce over high heat for a minute or two, until The pasta is done. This technique is called pasta strascicata, and will work especially well with creamy meat or vegetable sauces, sugo alla bolognese, and marinara sauce. Do not use it with sauces that are raw, for example pesto, or oil based, for example aglio e olio.
What You Need
- Pasta, a scant 1/4 pound (100 g) per person
- 1 quart (liter) boiling water per serving
- Salt for salting the water
- The Sauce of Choice