Have you ever struggled to achieve perfectly cooked pasta? Boy, I sure did. Back when I was newly married I struggled to boil water let alone make perfectly cooked pasta. But there have been nearly 9 years of cooking practice since then and my noodle making abilities have improved greatly. Not to toot my own horn, but I have learned a few tricks that make spaghetti and fettucine that much more enjoyable. My knowledge comes from trial and error, and by that I mean mostly error! I can’t tell you how many times I have left noodles unattended and they’ve blown up like balloons or mushed together! So courtesy of my mishaps in the kitchen, here are 4 simple tips to perfectly cooked pasta:
Start with a stock pot full of water and 1 tablespoon of oil. You will need 4 quarts of water (or a little more than half a pot) for a pound of pasta. It doesn’t matter what kind of pasta you are cooking, elbow, rigatoni, spaghetti, etc., the ratio will be the same. Adding the oil is important because it keeps the pasta from clumping together.
Bring the water to a rolling boil and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. This is an essential step for perfectly cooked pasta because it is really the only time the pasta can be seasoned while it is cooking. The whole tablespoon of salt will not be absorbed, so don’t worry about adding exorbitant amounts of sodium to your dish. Don’t add the salt after the pasta has cooked because it will not have time to dissolve. Pour in whatever pasta you are using and follow the steps on the box for al dente pasta. Spaghetti noodles generally take about 11 minutes.
Reserve about 2 cups of pasta water before straining the noodles from their liquid. All the yummy starches are floating around in this liquid gold so don’t pour them down the drain! Whatever you do, don’t rinse the pasta under running water after it is cooked because you will lose the flavor you worked hard to achieve under tip #2. Sometimes my pasta is ready before I am ready to pour on the sauce so I leave it in the strainer until I am ready to use it. Inevitably it clumps together. This is why I reserve water.
I pour about half the pasta water into the pasta while it is in the strainer to sort of “liven up” the noodles right before I am ready to use them. The starch in the pasta water also creates a great binding method for the sauce I am about to pour on top.
And as Paula Deen would say, “a little butter never hurt no one!” In order to kick pasta up to that restaurant quality level, I add a tablespoon of butter. It is best to add this while the noodles are still hot so that it can melt thoroughly.
Mix the butter all around and add a smidgen of pepper.
Now you’re ready to scoop this perfectly cooked pasta into individual bowls and top it with your favorite sauce! Pictured here is my Crockpot Bolognese Sauce. It is absolutely divine! I love it’s depth of flavor and how the meat melts in my mouth. These techniques can also come in handy for my Stove-Top Spinach and Pasta Bake recipe.
What is your favorite pasta? Are you a chicken fettuccine lover? Do you swoon over manicotti? Does mac and cheese beckon your name? Comment below and let me hear all the delicious details! Bon appetit, everyone!