How to Cook and Sauce Pasta Perfectly
Select your Pasta:
The amount of pasta, the type of grain, and type of noodle will influence the ideal cooking time to make al dente pasta. Higher servings of pasta, whole grain noodles, and noodles with higher surface area will increase cooking times (spaghetti vs. angel hair will result in spaghetti taking longer to cook).
Tips for Preventing Pasta from Sticking:
• Use a large pot to boil noodles in water. This helps prevent pasta from clumping together if there is enough room for the noodles. Using too small a pot and having overcrowded noodles can significantly lower the water temperature.
• Monitor the volume of water you use. Use just enough to cover the noodles by about an inch. Too much water will cause water to take longer to boil.
• At the start, use salt, not oil in the pasta water. Salt will help season the noodles and add flavor. Like most things, too much salt can be a bad thing, so feel free to experiment to see what level of salt works best. Generally speaking, about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water is a general rule of thumb that can work well.
• Stir regularly to help prevent clumping of noodles.
• Save a cup of pasta water. This water contains starches that helps with the saucing process later on that will continue to help avoid clumping of noodles.
• Do not rinse cooked pasta. Instead, add olive oil to freshly cooked pasta to help prevent clumping. The olive oil is also helpful for when you will sauce the pasta.
Tips for Saucing Pasta:
• Heat up pasta sauce in a saucepan.
• Transfer the cooked pasta to the saucepan and add the cup of pasta water to the pan. (optional) If cooking with a low-fat sauce, add butter or oil. After adding, cook the pasta at high heat and stir vigorously to avoid burning.
• Take the pan off the burner before adding cheese or herbs if your recipe calls for it.
• Serve immediately. Make sure that the serving plate is warm. Serving warm pasta on a cold plate will start to affect the consistency of the plate.