Cooking pasta really seems like a no-brainer, right? You grab a pot, add water, throw in the pasta, then boil until tender. It's a fast, easy way to curb your pasta cravings, but creating the perfect pasta dish requires a few more steps. Although the steps are easy, they will result in a much more tasty dish than simply boiling noodles in hot water.
Step 1: Use a large pot
The number one mistake most people make when preparing a pasta dish is using a pot that is too small. In order for the pasta to cook properly, you need to use a large stock pot that can hold plenty of water, or you'll wind up with a sticky clump of mushy noodles.
Step 2: Use plenty of water
This step goes along with step 1. You really do need to use an adequate amount of water when cooking pasta so the individual pieces can move freely and be completely submerged while cooking.
Step 3: Salt the water
Because pasta is a starchy food, adding salt to the cooking water will greatly enhance the flavor. Don't be stingy here, either. For a 6-quart stock pot of water, you want to use at least a tablespoon of good quality salt. Personally, I only use pink Himalayan sea salt. It adds a distinct flavor, and boost of minerals to your food.
Step 4: Boil, boil, boil
Never add your pasta to water unless it is at a full, rolling boil. If the water is simply simmering, the pasta will not cook evenly, and may leave you with a few over or undercooked bits.
Step 5: Stir, stir, stir
It doesn't take but just a few seconds for cooking pasta to clump together. Never simply throw your pasta in the pot and then walk away. You need to stand guard and give it a few good stirs every 2 to 3 minutes to ensure the pieces are not sticking together.
A lot of home cooks think that adding a bit of olive oil to the water will help prevent the pasta from sticking together. This is simply not true, and will prevent the sauce from bonding properly. A few good stirs is all you need to ensure your pasta doesn't stick together.
Step 6: Check the cooking time
You definitely need to check your package of pasta to see how long it needs to cook, but keep in mind that this cooking time is not set in stone. You want to check the firmness of the pasta 2 to 3 minutes sooner than the package states. It is much easier to cook the pasta a little longer if it is too firm that it is to deal with a plate full of overcooked, soggy mash.
Step 7: Save that water
A lot of home cooks overlook this step, but it may be one of the most important ones you ever come across: always save at least a cup of the water in which the pasta has been cooking. Adding a bit of this water to your pasta sauce will help it bond to the pasta so it doesn't all sink to the bottom of your bowl.
There you go! That's all you need to know to create the perfect pasta dish.