Pasta is a beloved and affordable staple of many family and budget-friendly diets that is known for being easy and fast to make, as well as delicious. But have you ever boiled a batch of pasta and had it come out not quite as good as the last time? Maybe it was sticky like glue, or water-logged and flimsy. Or maybe it was too hard and chewy. This phenomenon can cause even the best cook to wonder, “Was it something I did?”
To help you make your meal turn out the way you like every single time, here are some tips compiled below for a guaranteed positive pasta experience:
1. Wonderful Water—
A common mistake many cooks make is not using enough water for pasta. When too little liquid is used to boil pasta, it can make the water thick, and the pasta bloated and starchy. The amount of water needed depends on the type of pasta, so follow the directions on the package explicitly when it comes to pasta/water ratio, and err on the side of too much water rather than not enough. If you’re deciding between two pots, for example, choose the larger one. Your pasta will thank you.
2. Salt of the Earth—
Most of us know to sprinkle a little salt in the water when we boil pasta, but many of us are not putting in enough salt to actually flavor the pasta, which is the whole point. Pasta is bland by nature, intended to take on the flavor of the sauces used with it, but starting with a little seasoning inside your pasta can only help the recipe pop! One tablespoon of salt per quart of water is considered acceptable by many chefs.
3. Stirring is Stupendous—
Pouring the pasta into the water and forgetting about it is pasta abuse. This sort of treatment will guarantee that your pasta will stick together in little neglected masses of humiliating pasta failure. Stir frequently as pasta cooks, even once it is boiling. This will help it cook evenly and keep tough, rubbery pieces from hiding inside of clumps of pasta.
4. Al Dente is Excellente—
Nobody wants to eat puffy, swollen pasta, and that is why al dente has long been the desired texture for pasta. Firm, yet fully cooked, pasta cooked in this manner has both the flavor and feel to perfectly complement your sauce. To test your pasta, just break open a piece. If it’s still white inside, it’s not ready, but if it looks cooked all the way through, go ahead and give it a try. Using tongs, you can rinse a piece of hot pasta in cold water to make it a taste-testable temperature. (If you burn your mouth, you won’t be able to taste the delicious meal you’re making!)
5. Rinsing is Ridiculous—
Pasta should never, ever be rinsed, unless it is being used in a cold pasta salad, or if you need to work with it immediately to make manicotti, lasagna or some other type of casserole-style pasta dish. When you rinse pasta, you remove the starch that helps your sauce and other ingredients cling to it, giving the dish its flavor. And speaking of flavor, go ahead and save a cup of the pasta water when you drain it, just in case. That flavorful water can be used if you need to thin a sauce later.
There’s no need to let poorly-done pasta rain on your delicious dinner parade. Using the tips above, you can make perfect pasta like a professional every time.