Cooking pasta can be as simple as adding water and pasta to a pot. But it can also be a whole lot more. Here are some simple hacks and tricks that differentiate the chef and the apprentice.
Be warned, these tips might take your pasta making to another level.
1. Oil & Water Don’t Mix
A common misconception in pasta-making has about been adding oil to their pasta pots. The idea is that it will keep your noodles from sticking to each other. The truth is, the oil will not help this from happening at all!
Do not put oil into your pasta water because oil and water do not mix. The oil will stay on top of the water, and it won’t even mix with the noodles. When you strain your pasta, the oil will end up on your noodles and potentially prevent the sauce from sticking to them.
2. Fill The Pot Up With Water
You need to make sure that you fill your pasta pot with enough water.
Not having enough water in the pot is one of the main reasons that pasta will stick together. In addition to a sticky clump of pasta, you will also end up with something that is not evenly cooked. If you don’t have enough water in your pot for the pasta to move around freely, you will end up with a mess on your hands.
3. Salt Your Water Like The Sea
Salting your pasta water will have a significant impact when it comes to flavor. The great thing about salting the water is that it won’t do much as far as adding sodium to the pasta itself.
People often worry about the sauce and the seasonings in their pasta dish and skip salting the water. That little bit of salt in the water will make a big difference in how your pasta tastes.
4. Boil The Pasta Before Adding Pasta
If you ever wonder about when to add your pasta to the water, make sure you do it after the water has boiled. If you add your pasta while you are filling your pot, you will end up with soggy pasta.
Pasta is a starch, and it will absorb too much water if it is put in the water too early. Wait until your pot is bubbling before you pour that pasta in.
5. Drop And Stir
When you do place the pasta in the pot, make sure to stir it immediately. You want to make sure you start the process of getting the pasta to separate and cover themselves in boiling water.
Pasta needs space, and it needs room to move and cook properly. If you don’t stir your pasta, you may end up with it sticking to the pot. This only takes a second, but it will be worth your time.
6. A Spoon Full Of Salt
You need to add about a tablespoon of salt to every pound of pasta you cook. Most people do not add nearly enough salt when they cook their pasta. Do not worry about the sodium content in your pasta, salt away!
7. Large Pot For The Win
Cooking with a large pot gives the pasta room to swim and coat themselves with that saltwater you set them up with. You will end with a more evenly cooked meal. A smaller pot increases the odds of your pasta being starchy.
8. Disregard The Cooking Time
Don’t pay too much attention to the cooking times on the packaging. Depending on the type of pasta and the size of your pot, these cooking times can be misleading.
There is an art to making great pasta. Instead of focusing on the timer, pay attention to your pasta to make sure they are cooked to perfection.
9. Constantly Stir During The First Minute
Many of the starches get released within that first minute of placing the pasta in the water.
It is important to stir away in the first minute or so. Otherwise, chances are that it may all stick together in one clump on the bottom of the pasta pot.
Stand by the pot for about a minute and make sure things are boiling vigorously. Make sure that your pasta is separated and dispersed throughout your pot.
10. Never Rinse With Cold Water
Some novice “chefs” may rinse their boiling hot pasta with some cold water to cool it down after cooking. Unless you are making a cold pasta salad or a stir fry, there is no reason to do this.
Rinsing your pasta after cooking it can take away some of the taste. It can also make the sauce not stick to your pasta. So this is an unnecessary and potentially harmful step as well.
11. Pre Cooked Pasta
If you are planning to cook your pasta ahead of time, there are a few rules you should follow. If you let the pasta dry and sit together, it is going to be very difficult to separate later on.
The best thing to do is to coat your pasta in olive oil when it is finished cooking. This will allow the pasta to separate when they are reheated later. You will also have fewer issues with pasta breaking and sticking together if you add that olive oil.
12. Reserve A Cup Of Pasta Water
Every time you are making a meal that involves pasta, you should reserve a cup of the water before straining. The pasta water is starchy and salty, and it will do a fantastic job to thicken your sauces.
13. Add Cooked Pasta To Your Sauce
You should always add cooked pasta to your sauce and not sauce to your cooked pasta. It is much easier to stir, work with the pasta, and determine if your recipe proportions are accurate if you follow this method.
Once you dump your sauce in the pot with your pasta, there is no going back. When you follow the proper method, you can slowly add the pasta, coat the pasta, and perfect the recipe.
14. If Adding Cheese Remove From Heat
Pasta and cheese go well together. What doesn’t go so well is heat and cheese. If you add cheese to your pasta while it is still on the stovetop, you may burn it.
Burnt cheese has both a terrible taste and smell. It also will stick to your pot and be a mess to try and clean off. We certainly don’t discourage adding some cheese; just let the pasta get away from the heat before doing so.
15. Don’t Add Too Much Or Too Little Pasta
Deciding on how much pasta to add to your boiling water, make sure you don’t add too much or too little. The larger problem is going to be adding too much pasta without having enough water.
If you add too little pasta to a pot, you are just making a mess for yourself, having to strain tons of water to get a small cup of pasta.
When you add too much pasta to a pot, it will not cook evenly. You will be left with a sticky and not so delicious meal.
16. Don’t Break The Spaghetti
Spaghetti is not made long, so that you can just snap them in half. If you think your pasta won’t fit into your pot, then you need to get another pot.
Try looking for an oval-shaped pasta pot. The oval seems to accommodate the longer pasta much better. You can drop the pasta in the largest part of the pot and keep a close eye as to when they start to loosen up.
As soon as the pasta loosens up, give that pasta a great stir, and you will be on your way. Now you and your guests won’t be eating tiny bites of spaghetti either.
17. Pick The Right Pasta Shape For Your Sauce
Choosing the correct pasta shape for your sauce is an art form in it self. Some pasta will hold onto more sauce than others. Pasta can either capture the sauce or absorb it. You may have to experiment a bit to get the exact right pasta shape for your sauce.
A meal can taste completely different depending on the pasta shape you use. If you want to let your sauce shine, choose a pasta that allows bits of sauce to be captured in every bite.
18. Don’t Over Or Under Cook
Cooking your pasta too long or not long enough is usually what happens when pasta is left unattended. If you stick close by while your pasta is cooking and continually check to see how it is, you won’t have any issues.
There are no exact time limits to getting a perfect piece of pasta; you must watch it and taste as you go. Depending on the dish you are making, you may want your pasta to be a bit soft or a bit hard.
19. Taste As You Go
Always taste your pasta as you are cooking. You will know if the pasta needs a bit more salt or a bit more time on the stove. There is no other way to tell then to taste it yourself.
As you become better at cooking pasta, you will also learn to be able to see when the pasta is about ready to come out of the pot. How they react to being stirred is another indication they may be nearing completion.
However, it’s not such a bad thing to have to take a few bites of your meal along the way!
So how did we do? Do you feel ready and motivated to make the best pasta you have ever had tonight? Don’t be tempted by the directions on the box of your pasta, take the advice from the experts. The ones who make meals that everybody wants to eat!
Let us know what you thought of our tips and give us some more tips that we may have skipped.