Sure, pasta is one of the easiest dishes to cook. As long as you can fill a pot with water and turn on your stove, you can make a bowl of noodles, right? But cooking pasta well is another story. For those who strive for pasta greatness, we gathered five hacks to ensure that your pasta is perfectly al dente, salted, and sauced—every single time.
Salt Your Water Until It Tastes Like the Sea
If your water doesn’t taste decidedly salty before you drop in the noodles, it’s likely not seasoned enough. At the bare minimum, use about 1.5 tablespoons of salt for every pound of pasta you cook, but feel free to adjust that amount until you figure out how much salt tastes best to you. Remember that your noodles will absorb the water while cooking, so the saltier the liquid, the saltier the noodles.
Never Break Your Spaghetti
Spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine are supposed to be long—so don’t even think about cracking them in half before you drop them in the water! Their length allows them to wrap tightly around your fork while sticking to more sauce. Don’t fret if your pasta strands stick out of the water at the beginning of the cooking process, as they’ll quickly slip all the way into the water once softened.
Cook Pasta for 2 to 3 Minutes Less Than the Package Says
Al dente pasta has a distinct firmness to it. This desirable texture holds noodles’ shapes and prevents them from turning to mush on your plate (especially if you’re planning to save some as leftovers). In order to achieve al dente noodles, cook your pasta 2 to 3 minutes less than the package instructions. From there, you can always add cook time—but you can’t fix an overcooked noodle. You’ll know to pull your noodles if you can see a thin, white ring through the center of the noodle when you bite into it.
Reserve Your Pasta Water
It might sound like an inconvenient or pointless extra step, but once you start adding pasta water to your sauces, you’ll never go back. The starchy water is basically liquid gold; it works to fuse your sauce to your noodles as well as thicken the sauce. Try to reserve about a cup so you have plenty to work with when finishing your dish.
Toss Your Pasta with Your Sauce Before Serving
Avoid puddles of sauce at the top of your dish by coating all your noodles with sauce before serving. This is the proper time to add your pasta water to the dish as well. Or consider adding a knob of butter to create a silkier sauce texture. Both hacks will result in a more cohesive final meal!
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