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  • How to Cook Pasta Perfectly

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    Grab all of my top tips to learn how to cook pasta perfectly every time. A great option for a quick and easy weeknight meal when tossed in a simple homemade sauce, or use cold in pasta salads. This foolproof method guarantees the best results when cooking dried pasta at home.

    al dente spaghetti with cherry tomatoes on a plate

    We have pasta for dinner at least once a week, and I have a feeling that most families are the same! It’s a perfect go-to for a weeknight dinner when you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen.

    Take the guesswork out of how to cook the perfect pasta with these simple and easy tips. It’s easy when you know how!

    Be sure to check out my other tips for cooking basics like How to Cook Couscous and How To Cook Quinoa.

    Why you will love this recipe!

    • Quick and easy: When you need to get a tasty dinner on the table in minutes, pasta is a great go to!
    • Kid friendly: If you have picky eaters in your house, then pasta is a great option! Toss it in their favorite sauce and you are good to go!
    • Budget friendly: Dried pasta is a great kitchen basic that’s affordable. It’s filling and low in fat and is a great addition to a well balanced diet.
    cooked pasta with cherry tomatoes on a plate

    Ingredients

    • Dried pasta: Most dried pasta shapes like fusilli, penne and bow tie will work great for this stovetop method.
    • Salt: Salt is added to the water before adding the pasta. This helps to add flavor to the finished dish.
    • Water: The water should be boiling before adding the pasta so that it cooks through evenly.
    spaghetti in a box

    How to cook pasta perfectly – step by step instructions

    • Bring a large pot of water to a full boil over high heat. Stir in the salt until dissolved.
    • After the salt is dissolved, add the pasta to the boiling water, stir a few times to prevent the noodles from sticking together. 
    • Boil pasta according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente, or about 10 minutes. A couple of minutes before the suggested cooking time is up, taste the pasta. It’s al dente if it’s tender but still slightly firm in the middle. Reserve pasta water to add to the sauce if needed. Drain over the sink and toss with desired sauce.
    • If using the drained pasta in a cold pasta salad, add to a colander and rinse with cold water for about 1 minute, stirring until cooled down.
    process images of cooking spaghetti on the stove top

    What is Al Dente?

    Al dente literally translates from Italian “to the tooth” meaning the pasta still has to have a bite or be slightly firm when bitten. The al dente pasta is tender but firm and chewy, and it has the best taste and texture. A couple of minutes before the suggested cooking time on the package, give the pasta a taste. If it’s tender enough to chew but still contains a bit of a bite, you’ve reached al dente. The sauce also sticks better to al dente pasta while it slides right off of full or over-cooked pasta.

    Prolonged cooking of the pasta causes the release of starch in the cooking water therefore the loss of nutritional properties. Overcooked pasta also turns mushy and sticky.

    How much pasta per person do you need?

    A single serving size of pasta is typically about two ounces of dry pasta—amounting to about a cup of cooked pasta.

    A pound of pasta (16 oz package) makes about 8 adult-size servings.

    Can you cook fresh pasta using this method?

    This method is for dried pasta, if you have fresh pasta like ravioli the cooking time is a lot quicker. Follow the instructions below for boiling and salting the water, but fresh pasta will only require around 3 minutes of cooking time depending on the thickness.

    cooked pasta in a black plate

    Is pasta gluten-free?

    Traditional pasta is made with wheat flour, so it is not gluten-free. There are some great gluten-free dried pasta widely available if you do have a gluten intolerance. The cooking method remains the same, though the timings may differ. Some great gluten-free pasta to try are:

    • Corn Pasta
    • Brown Rice Pasta
    • Chickpea Pasta
    • Quinoa Pasta
    • Lentil Pasta
    • Black Bean Pasta

    How long does cooked pasta last?

    Cooked pasta should be drained and cooled before storing in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep well for around 4 days. You can stir the cooked pasta into a hot sauce to heat it through to serve, or use it to make a pasta salad.

    Favorite Pasta Recipes

    Once you have made your pasta, you’ll want some delicious recipes to incorporate it in! These are some of my favorites:

    TIPS FROM NELI’S KITCHEN

    Recipe Notes and Tips for the Perfect Pasta

    • Bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the spaghetti or pasta. If you start it in cold water it won’t cook through evenly.
    • Don’t skip the salt! This adds flavor to the pasta for the best tasting finished dish.
    • Don’t add the pasta before the water is boiling.
    • Always stir the water when you first add the pasta.
    • Pasta should be cooked in quite a lot of water. This allows it to move as it boils so that it doesn’t stick together. Use a big pot.
    • Taste the pasta at least two minutes before reaching the time printed on the packaging, and then again a minute later to make sure you drain it just when it is al dente.
    • Cook the pasta al dente and taste it before you drain it. If you overcook it, the pasta can become mushy as it will continue to cook once it’s drained, and again when added to a sauce.
    • If you are not using the pasta immediately, rinse with cool water and toss with a drop of olive oil to prevent sticking later. Otherwise, toss with sauce and serve.
    • If you are making bolognese sauce or any other pasta sauce to accompany your pasta dish, you can reserve some of the cooked pasta liquid before you drain it to add to the sauce.

    More Cooking Resources:

    How To Cook Pasta

    Grab all of my top tips to learn how to cook pasta perfectly every time. A great option for a quick and easy weeknight meal when tossed in a simple homemade sauce, or use cold in pasta salads. This foolproof method guarantees the best results when cooking dried pasta at home.
    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 10 minutes
    Total Time 15 minutes
    Servings 6 servings
    Calories 280kcal

    INGREDIENTS

    INSTRUCTIONS

    • Fill a large pot with water and bring water to a full boil over high heat. Stir in the salt until dissolved.
    • After the salt is dissolved, add the pasta to the boiling water, stir a few times to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
    • Boil pasta according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente, or about 10 minutes. A couple of minutes before the suggested cooking time is up, taste the pasta. It's al dente if it's tender but still slightly firm in the middle.
    • Reserve a small cup of cooking water to add to the sauce if needed. Drain over the sink and toss with desired sauce.
    • If using the pasta in a salad, add to a colander and rinse with cold water for about 1 minute, stirring until cooled down.

    TIPS & NOTES

    • Bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the spaghetti or pasta. If you start it in cold water it won’t cook through evenly.
    • Don’t skip the salt! This adds flavor to the pasta for the best tasting finished dish.
    • Don’t add the pasta before the water is boiling.
    • Always stir the water when you first add the pasta.
    • Pasta should be cooked in quite a lot of water. This allows it to move as it boils so that it doesn’t stick together. Use a big pot.
    • Taste the pasta at least two minutes before reaching the time printed on the packaging, and then again a minute later to make sure you drain it just when it is al dente.
    • Cook the pasta al dente and taste it before you drain it. If you overcook it, the pasta can become mushy as it will continue to cook once it’s drained, and again when added to a sauce.
    • If you are not using the pasta immediately, rinse with cool water and toss with a drop of olive oil to prevent sticking later. Otherwise, toss with sauce and serve.
    • If you are making bolognese sauce or any other pasta sauce to accompany your pasta dish, you can reserve some of the cooked pasta liquid before you drain it to add to the sauce.

    NUTRITION

    Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1199mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg
    Course Ingredient, Side Dish
    Cuisine Italian
    Keyword best way to cook pasta, how to cook dried pasta, how to cook perfect pasta
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