The key to cooking Italian pasta is enough water and heat, and particularly learning to recognize when the pasta is al dente.
Pasta cooked al dente is still firm when bitten. Overcooked pasta can make any pasta recipe unappetizing, and it deprives this complex carbohydrate of the healthy nutrients it contains.
Hopefully, these step-by-step instructions for cooking pasta will help you prepare those delicious Italian pasta recipes that make your guests so happy. And let’s not forget that pasta dishes are a favorite of children.
How to cook pasta
- Bring 4 cups or 1 quart water (approx. 1 liter) to a boil for every 3 ounces (approx. 85 g) of pasta you want to cook. When the water is rolling boil, add salt.
- Make sure that the heat is set to high and the water is at full boil. Add all the pasta to the boiling water at once while stirring it with a long-handled spoon to prevent sticking.
- Cover the pot so that the water resumes boiling as soon as possible. Lower the heat if the water is about boiling over, but keep it boiling vigorously. Otherwise, pasta doesn’t cook homogeneously. Stir often to prevent sticking.
- Next you can either cover the pot with a lid and adjust the heat, or cook the pasta uncovered with a higher heat. We prefer the latter, but both are fine as soon as the water is boiling hard all the time.
- Begin timing the minutes as soon as the pasta has resumed boiling. Usually, the package states how many minutes it needs. One minute or so before the stated time, begin checking the pasta to see how chewy it is. When the pasta is ready, remove it from heat and drain it immediately without rinsing.
- The pasta is ready when it is al dente, which means that it is chewy; it still offers a slight resistance to the bite, but it doesn’t have a floury taste.
Do’s and dont’s when cooking pasta
- Do use a big pot because pasta likes to dance in lots of boiling water. Any large deep two-handled pot is suitable for boiling pasta.
- Do add salt when the water is rolling boil. If you add it earlier the water will take longer to come to a boil.
- Do keep the pasta completely submerged in boiling water all the time it is cooking.
- Don’t add oil to the water or boiling water.
- Don’t add salt before the water comes to a boil.
- Don’t cook the pasta so long that it becomes mushy.
- Don’t rinse the pasta with cold water after draining it.
Water and salt measurements for cooking pasta
- 1 quart (1 l) water for 3 ounces (85 g) pasta
- 2 quarts (2 l) water for 6 ounces (170 g) pasta
- 3 quarts (3 l) water for 9 ounces (250 g) pasta
- 4 quarts (4 l) water for 12 ounces (340 g) pasta
- Roughly add about 1 teaspoon of salt per every quart of water. This amount of salt is only an orientation as it varies quite a lot from person to person. You will need to adjust the salt to your personal taste.
Notes on cooking pasta
We have three strong reasons for cooking pasta al dente:
- Making it appetizing;
- Eating it without being afraid of putting on weight;
- Keeping its nutrient balance intact.
Pasta itself is not fattening, what is fattening is overcooked pasta. Otherwise Italians following the traditional Italian food diet would all be overweight and they aren’t. Italian routinely cook pasta al dente; you can easily learn it too.