Cooking pasta doesn't exactly take a degree in rocket science. Yet so many small variations, individual techniques, and old wives tales abound that cooking a simple pot of pasta can end up feeling rather daunting!
Here's our method:
Forget exact cooking times. Forget measuring out salt or olive oil by the tablespoon. There are really just two main tricks to keep in mind when cooking any kind of pasta.
Cook pasta in a large amount of boiling water. An ample amount of water will dilute the starches coming off the pasta and prevent it from becoming gummy and mushy once cooked. For a box of pasta, use at least a 6-quart pot of water.
Salt the water heavily. And we mean heavily! For our 6-quart pot, we throw in a healthy handful (or more) of kosher salt. Our chef instructor at culinary school always said that you want pasta water "salty like the sea."
The salt doesn't do anything in terms of cooking the pasta; it's there entirely for flavor. The salt gets absorbed into the pasta during cooking, seasoning from the inside out and ultimately giving you a tastier final dish.
Trust us on this one. Salting your pasta water (heavily) makes a huge difference!
Aside from these two tips, remember to taste your pasta frequently to check on its cooking. Drain the pasta right before it's cooked to where you like it. A few glugs of olive oil will keep the pasta from sticking to itself, but this isn't necessary if it's going right into a sauce.
What are your tips for cooking pasta?
Related: Look! Name that Pasta
(Image: Stephanie Marrott, $7.99 at AllPosters.com)