How to Cook Dried Pasta

Article by: Allrecipes  |  Picture by: Allrecipes
How to Cook Dried Pasta
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The recipe says "cook the pasta" but you're not sure if you're doing it the right way? Follow these easy but essential steps and you're on the way to al dente and perfect pasta.

To cook dried pasta evenly and prevent it from sticking together, it needs space in the pot. Use a deep saucepan and, ideally, about 4 litres of water per 500g of pasta. Add salt – anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon - depending on the amount of pasta you are cooking and personal taste.
Bring the water to a full, rolling boil. The temperature will drop once you add the pasta, so make sure it's boiling before dropping in the pasta. Add the pasta to the water and gently stir short pasta immediately after adding to water; let spaghetti and long pasta soften for a minute before stirring.
Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Adjust the temperature, if the water starts boiling too vigorously. We prefer to have the water at a gentle boil with the lid partially on the pot. Cook according to the time on the packet – it could be from 7-12 minutes. The times on the packets are generally accurate but set a timer and taste test the pasta before you drain it.
Pasta should be cooked until it's tender but just slightly firm to the bite - definitely not mushy. This is what's called al dente. If it's going to used in a recipe like macaroni and cheese or lasagne it can be slightly firmer, since it will absorb liquid and cook more in the oven.
Drain the pasta in a colander. Don't rinse the pasta and retain a cup or so of the pasta water in case you need to thin out the sauce. Return the colander to the pot and cover to keep it warm or put it in a bowl and add the sauce. Alternatively, serve the pasta into individual bowls and add the sauce to each bowl.

  • Don't combine two types or sizes of pasta in the same pot of water, as they will finish cooking at different times.
  • If you're tossing the pasta with a sauce, reserve a cup or two of the cooking water before you drain the pot. The water can be added to thin out a thick sauce, like pesto, and the starch in the water helps sauces stick to the pasta.
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