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How to Cook Long Pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
1. Pasta must always be cooked in abundantly salted water. The proportion should be 1 1/2 quart (approximately 1 1/2 liters) of water for 3 – 4 oz (100 g) of dry pasta.
Use a large, tall stockpot. Bring enough water to a boil as necessary to cook the desired amount of pasta. Add the salt only after the water begins boiling. Salty water boils at a higher temperature, and therefore takes longer to boil. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the water. The amount may vary depending on personal taste. If you don’t add salt to the water, the pasta will taste very insipid, and there will be a lot of contrast with the sauce that is salted. No Italian forgets to salt the pasta water!
2. Keep the pasta vertically over the boiling water and drop the pasta into the pot.
3. In few seconds, the pasta will start softening. Using a long fork, start pushing the pasta in the water until is fully submerged.
At this point, the temperature of the water will have fallen, and it will not be boiling anymore.
4. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat to high to bring the water back to a fast boil.
When the water comes to a fast boil again and the pot is covered, the steam will push the lid up, and the water will splash out of the pot! You have to be there and remove the lid to continue cooking the pasta uncovered. It is dangerous to leave the pot unattended. The splashing water can easily extinguish the flame and the gas would freely come out of the burner.
5. Continue cooking the pasta uncovered. Mix with a long fork in order to keep the pasta pieces separate from each other. Adjust the flame to keep the water boiling but preventing it from splashing out of the pot.
6. Read the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the envelope for the cooking time, but don’t trust them. The best thing to do is taste a little piece from time to time to test for readiness. Bite a little piece. If the core of the pasta is still whitish, you can tell the pasta is not ready yet.
Testing will give you an idea of the time left to a perfect al dente pasta.
The expression al dente in Italian refers to the correct cooking point of pasta. Literally it means, “when it is right for the tooth,” that is, soft but firm, and never overcooked.
Before draining, reserve some of the cooking water if the recipe requires it. If you are using a “dry” type of dressing, you may want to add some of the water back into the mixing bowl.
7. Place the colander in the sink in a secure position. When the pasta is ready, turn the heat off. Grab the pot firmly. Don’t forget that most of the accidents in the house happen in the kitchen. Make sure nobody is in your way to the sink. Watch for the kids!
8. Add a little cold tap water to the pot to stop the cooking process. About 1/2 glass is enough. In fact, pasta keeps cooking even after you drain it. Also, this way the pasta will not be extremely hot when served. Make sure the recipe allows cooling the pasta. Some recipes require for the pasta to be very hot. You are not “washing” the pasta here! Don’t overdue it!
9. Carefully drain the pasta.
10. Shake the colander to drain the pasta thoroughly unless the recipe indicates otherwise.
11. Pour the pasta into a bowl of adequate size. Add the dressing or sauce, toss it well, add cheese if indicated by the recipe, and serve immediately.
Buon Appetito! Anna Maria Volpi
How to Cook Short Pasta (rigatoni, penne, etc.)
The procedure for short pasta is very similar to the one described above for long pasta. Cooking short pasta is generally easier, but takes a few minutes longer because short pasta is normally thicker.
A. Follow step 1 above, but use a large saucepan of adequate size.
When the salted water comes to a boil, drop the pasta in the saucepan.
C. When the water comes back to a fast boil, adjust the level of the heat and stir often to keep the pasta pieces separate.
D. Test for readiness... Read step 6 above.
E. When the pasta is al dente, drain it as indicated in steps 7, 8, 9, and 10 above.
F. Pour the pasta into a bowl of adequate size. Add the dressing or sauce, toss it well, add cheese if indicated by the recipe, and serve immediately.
Italians assume everyone knows HOW TO COOK PASTA. I was raised on pasta. I have seen my mother and father cook pasta a million times since I was born. All Italians (should) know how to cook pasta. But this is not true for everyone.
Do you cook pasta in unsalted water and add salt later? Do you add oil to the boiling water? Do you drain the pasta and have it sitting there for the guests to pick it up and dress it by themselves? Do you throw the pasta to the wall to see if it’s ready ? (This last one was a question seriously asked me by an American friend). Stop the insanity!
You need to print these pages and keep them close. Give them to your friends and family. Spread the word.
This is your new pasta cooking manual!
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ: Do you add oil to the water when is boiling?
Answer: NO! You don't need to add oil at all when cooking the pasta. It accomplishes nothing.
FAQ: Do you add oil to the pasta after drained?
Answer: NO! After the pasta is drained you will add the sauce to the pasta, so there is no point in adding oil. Some people leave the pasta undressed and the sauce in a separate bowl. In that case, they add oil to the pasta to keep it from sticking. That is WRONG! The pasta needs to be dressed with the sauce after drained and is served at once. The oil doesn't add flavor. It only adds the taste of oil. If you have a condiment based on oil, then you don't need to add anything. If the condiment is based on something else, adding oil will only add an intrusive taste.
Frequently Asked Question: Do you add oil to the water when is boiling? Do you add oil to the pasta after drained?
Scroll to the bottom of the page for the answer
Average Dry Pasta Cooking Times
Capellini (Angel Hair) 3-4 min
Spaghettini 5 min
Spaghetti, Linguine 7 min
Bucatini, Zite 10 min
Farfalle, Conchiglie 10 min
Penne, Rigatoni 15 min
Ravioli, Tortellini Fresh 10 min
Ravioli, Tortellini Dry 20 min.
Fresh homemade pasta has a very short cooking time, especially if it was just made. Depending on the thickness of the cut, it cooks in approximately 5 minutes.