You can cook pasta perfectly with these simple tricks. First, use a big pot and lots of water so the pasta has room to “swim” and therefore cook evenly. Second, Salt your water to add flavor to the pasta. And third, use the cooking times on the package as a guide, but still pull a piece out of the water about a minute before the recommended cook time to be sure it has reached that perfect al dente state (some bite without the starchy taste). Some cooks suggest adding olive oil to the boiling water to help prevent the pasta from sticking together; I think a few stirs with tongs or a long-handled wooden spoon works just as well.
- Fill a large pot with 5 quarts of water. Leave at least 2 inches between the water line and the lip of the pot so the water doesn’t boil over. (If using a pasta insert, place it in the pot. A pasta insert is used in lieu of a colander when draining pasta.)
- Bring water to a full boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta. Water is at a full boil when many large bubbles are popping at the surface.
- Add pasta all at once, and stir it around a few times so the pieces are not sticking together. Let the water return to a boil. Now, start timing.
- Cook pasta uncovered until done to your preferred degree of firmness (see packaging for a reference cook time). Note: if cooking pasta for a baked pasta dish such as baked ziti or macaroni and cheese, undercook the pasta, since it will cook further in the oven. The exact time should be specified in the recipe directions.
- Place colander in the sink. Drain pasta by tipping the pot into a colander. If using a pasta insert, simply place it in your sink. Shake the colander or pasta insert a few times to get rid of any excess water.
- Serve immediately. Store cooked pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. To reheat, drop it into boiling water for a minute. (But, really, since you have to take out your pot and boil the water, why not just make pasta as needed?)