These are my 5 commandments for cooking italian pasta that I’ve gathered over the last years and that have proven useful. It’s not that hard anyway but not everyone is a routined chef and I would have been happy if I had known some of these seemingly plain tips in the beginning.
These basic steps and fundamentals will hopefully help you nail it as much as they helped me 🙂
If you’re still pondering with pasta to cook, have a look at Jamie Oliver’s pasta shapes guide.
#1 Salted water
Just memorize the above rule of thumb: 10 g of salt per 100 g of pasta per 1000 g (1l) of water and you’ll be on the safe side. One heaping teaspoon equals about 10 g of salt. A little more salt will not harm, though never omit the salt – your pasta will taste bland.
#2 Boiling water
Add the pasta to the water once it’s boiling, not before.
Don’t add pasta to cold water or they will become mushy. Boil without a lid and stir often to keep them from sticking to either the bottom or each other.
#3 No oil, never rinse
Please, just no.
Do not use oil in your pasta water and – if you drain them in a colander – never rinse them. Both will prevent the noodles from properly picking up the sauce you invested so much time and effort in making.
#4 Test for doneness
The sauce shall always wait for the pasta, never the other way round.
Try to have the sauce ready before your pasta is finally done. This way you have the best chance to hit the exact “al dente” point by not having your pasta wait and overcook until the sauce is done. Test the pasta one to two minutes before the package’s cooking time instruction and adjust accordingly to achieve peak “al dente”.
#5 Reserve cooking water
Pasta cooking water is starchy goodness.
Many recipes require you to transfer your pasta into the pan with your sauce directly from the pot in order to carry along some of the cooking water. If you are going to drain them, make sure to reserve a cup or so of the cooking water in case you need to emulsify and starch up your sauce once the pasta is mixed in.