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How to cook pasta

How to cook pasta

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Though you may think you know how to cook pasta, there are a few simple tricks cooks use to ensure their pasta is perfect every time.

Tools of the trade

Start with these tools, and you're well on your way to perfect pasta:

A large six to eight-litre pot
Four to six litres of cold water
One to two tablespoons of salt
A wooden or long-handled spoon, and
A colander for draining the pasta

Pasta, step-by-step

To cook evenly and prevent it from sticking together, pasta needs space. Use a deep saucepan and at least 4 litres of water per 500g of pasta. Salt is added to the cooking water to season the pasta. If you don't season the cooking water, the pasta may taste flat - no matter how salty the sauce.

  1. Bring the water to a full, rolling boil. The temperature will drop once you add the pasta, so make sure it's boiling before dropping in the pasta.
  2. Gently stir short pasta immediately after adding to water; let spaghetti and long strands soften for a minute before stirring. Don't break pasta in half.
  3. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Cook according to packet instructions (usually 10 to 12 minutes).
  5. Test a piece of pasta to ensure it's al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta in a colander. If your sauce is not ready, return the colander to the pot and cover to keep it warm.
  7. Toss your pasta with your favourite sauce, or rinse under cold tap water if you're using it for a pasta salad.

Helpful pasta tips

Don't combine two types or sizes of pasta in the same pot of water, as they will finish cooking at different times.

If you're tossing the pasta with a sauce, reserve a ladle or two of the cooking water before you drain the pot. The water can be added to thin out a thick sauce, like pesto, and the starch in the water helps sauces stick to each shape or strand.

It's not necessary to add oil to the water; you'll just be pouring good olive oil down the drain. As long as you use plenty of water and stir occasionally, your pasta won't stick.

Pasta should be cooked until it's al dente, or tender but slightly firm to the bite. If it's going to used in a recipe - like a pasta bake, macaroni cheese or lasagne - it can be even firmer, since it will absorb liquid and cook some more in the oven.

Read the packet for timing guidelines, but don't rely on the clock entirely! About a minute before your pasta is due to be done, test a piece to see that it is done to your liking.

Check out our Pasta recipe collection for hundreds of easy pasta recipes.

Watch the video: How to Make Margherita Pizza at Home - Gordon Ramsay (July 2022).


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