To master pasta cooking one needs to focus on fundamentals, the Italian way: the only way to properly cook it, period. Once you’ve read this and applied the technique a few times it will get under your skin and overcooked, tasteless pasta dishes will be a thing of the past.Your first rule is buy good quality pasta. It is made of two very simple ingredients: semolina flour and water. If you grab a pack and the ingredients list has more than the above, leave it where it is. Aim for small batch artisanal producers if possible, this usually means quality is the focus: made with Italian prime wheat, extruded in copper molds and dried slowly. These traditional techniques make the pasta porous which will allow it to hold the sauce better. You can often easily tell the difference from the color: industrial pasta is generally orangey-yellow, while artisanal pasta will be whiter with a longer suggested cooking time.The second rule is you want to cook it in lots of boiling water! Use a nice large pot and salt the water only when it boils. Add the pasta and always follow the suggested cooking time, stir it every once in a while so it does not stick, trying it when there’s one/two minutes left just to check it’s properly “al dente”. Dente means “tooth” in Italian, the texture must be firm and have a bite to it. After you cook pasta regularly, you will just know when it is ready.Third rule, finish it in a pan with the sauce. Right before draining it save a little cooking water to add it to your sauce which is supposed to be bubbling on the stove at this stage. You can now add the strained pasta and sauté it until all the water is absorbed. This is an important trick which will make your dish creamier since the pasta water has a lot of starch. Not all sauces require a finish over the stove (think pesto or carbonara) but it’s a good general rule.Quick recap:Your fourth rule is to match the right sauce with the right pasta. Pasta types were invented to specifically match certain kinds of sauces, and viceversa. If there are well over 350 different pasta shapes you can take for granted theres just as many sauces. So dive into traditional Italian recipes and take inspiration from those pairings, and then experiment with other shapes to your liking.
- Boil water in a large pot
- Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of salt (for 2-3 liters of water)
- Don’t add oil to water – it is a totally pointless myth
- Pour pasta in boiling water (1 quart of water per 100g of pasta more or less)
- Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick
- Cook for the suggested time on pack, but our tip is to always try one before draining, you want to cook it ‘al dente’. You are looking for a firm and elastic texture.
- Drain and add to sauce immediately and stir together, with some cooking water
- Eat straight away