Pasta is great stuff. It’s a staple. It’s been a staple for centuries, spreading from Italy to the rest of the world. Many of us don’t just love pasta, we live for it. It comes in all different shapes, colors, and sizes. Spaghetti, penne, ziti, rigatoni, whole-grain, tricolor… Regardless of your preference, nothing beats the satisfaction of a piping hot plate of saucy or cheesy pasta (we like to call it the ultimate comfort food). Just the thought of it is enough to make your mouth water. But why pay a fortune for a dish of pasta at a restaurant, when you can make a perfect, satisfying plate of it right at home for a fraction of the cost?
Perfecting your plate of pasta is easier than it may seem (especially to those who don’t cook frequently). However, there are certain habits that are widespread in the culinary world that might actually be ruining your pasta. There is nothing more disappointing than when you accidentally overcook (or undercook) your pasta, or it gets stuck together, or the flavor just isn’t up to your standards. Here are a few basic tips to help you ace the pasta-making process every single time without fail, because we never want you to experience that disappointment again.
Make sure the pot you’re using has plenty of space in it for the pasta to move around! If the pasta is all packed into the pot tightly, it will get stuck together. The pot should be spacious enough to hold both the water and the pasta without being close to overflowing, so make sure that there is enough space to account for the water displacement that the pasta will create.
Boil enough water to submerge all of the pasta! 6 quarts of water should be plenty if you’re cooking a pound of pasta, which is the standard package. Salt the water with about a tablespoon of salt. Many people “salt” their water with just a quick little shake of the salt dispenser, but you’re going to be happy you added a bit more! The salt is both for taste and to speed up the boiling process.
Don’t add the pasta into the water until it’s hit a rolling boil. What exactly does this mean? There will be lots of bubbles floating rapidly to the surface. It’s more than just a few bubbles below the surface of the water; you’ll be able to tell when you’ve reached this point!
Add the pasta into the boiling water and keep stirring it! For the best results, you should stir consistently as it cooks (and don’t cook it longer than the package specifies— if you get distracted easily, be sure to set a timer!). If you can’t stir the full 8-10 minutes, be sure to stir a few times throughout the process at the very least. It makes a great arm workout!
Check the pasta before you dump the water. Have you ever drained the pasta without testing to make sure it’s done? It’s pretty disheartening. Avoid the sadness that comes along with extremely al dente pasta and just test a noodle before you get rid of the water that took you so long to boil!
Many chefs recommend saving about a cup of the pasta water before you drain, as it can be mixed into the sauce/pasta combo to avoid clumping. If you want to give this a shot, by all means!
Drain your pasta well in a colander, but DO NOT rinse under cold water! It will rinse away good starches and nutrients that you want to have on your pasta (plus it will make it cold, which defeats the purpose of having a steaming hot plate of pasta that you so desperately craved). Mix the pasta directly into the sauce.
Savor every single bite of this pasta perfection you just worked so hard to cook.
A few boxes of pasta and a few jars of sauce are great to have on hand— it might sound like a bit more work than you realized to make pasta the “right” way, but it’s truly an easy dish to make when you’re in a pinch. We carry a variety of both pasta and sauces and we would be happy to give our recommendations the next time you stop in! If you’re feeling extra ambitious, make your own sauce using one of our favorite recipes instead. Buon appetito!