Pasta is one of the first things people learn how to cook because easy never tasted so awesome! But there are nuances to the art of pasta-making that you might not understand in your early days. If you are curious about cooking the perfect pasta, you’ll want to read this guide.
How to tell if your pasta is ready
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned home chef, you might have trouble figuring out when the pasta is ready to serve. Several recipes call for ‘al-dente’ pasta, which means slightly undercooked. Al dente pasta can then be transferred to the pasta sauce where it finishes cooking. That way, you can combine the flavors of the sauce with the sweet, starchy pasta water.
So how can one tell how far along is the pasta in the cooking process? Avoid throwing it at the wall—that sounds messy. You can use simple tricks that don’t involve throwing slightly raw, very hot plate of rigatoni. All you need to do is carefully dish out one of your noodles from the pot and cut it in half.
When you do, you’ll see a ring inside the noodle that’s a lighter color than the rest of the pasta. That part is the undercooked pasta. The thicker the white ring there is, the less cooked it is. For pasta, the thin lighter ring is al dente. If you want your pasta a little less cooked than al dente, aim for a thicker ring. For pasta that’s cooked all the way, there should be no white ring at all.
This method works exceptionally well with tube pasta, like rigatoni or ziti, but you can use it with whatever you’ve got.
Signs Your Pasta is undercooked.
- Taste it – eat the noodle and see if you like the texture and taste.
- Pasta Sticks – pasta that doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan is undercooked.
- Bite it – If you bite and notice a white ‘core,’ it means the pasta hasn’t cooked enough.
How To Cook The Perfect Pasta – Gordon Ramsay
How to Avoid Common Pasta Mistakes
Spaghetti is one of the first dishes you learned how to cook as a child. However, that doesn’t mean you’re cooking it the right way. You can create edible pasta and pour a jar of sauce on it, but it takes a lot more to make delicious pasta. You’ll need to pay more attention than just tossing dried noodles into a boiling pot of water.
You’ve probably made some common mistakes while cooking up a pot of pasta. But we’re here to fix them for you.
Do you ever think about how much water you require, precisely when to toss in the pasta, and how often you should stir the pot? It turns out we have answers to all of those culinary questions. Let’s get started!
Not using enough water
The water-to-pasta ratio is important. If you use little water, the pasta will turn out gummy, gooey, and starchy.
Our solution: As a rule of thumb, you need about four quarts of water for every pound of pasta you use.
So, if you have a 4-quart stockpot, which is a medium-sized pot in a home kitchen, you’ll want to fill it halfway if you’re cooking a pound of dry pasta.
Adding your pasta into the stockpot too soon
If you add pasta to a pot that’s not boiling, it won’t cook properly. Try avoiding adding pasta to cold water at all costs. It increases the cooking time and gives you a less granular texture. Italian grandmothers consider it a culinary sin!
Our solution: Don’tadd the pasta to the pot until the water reaches a full boil. So, stay away from the oil and reach for the salt.
Adding oil to water
Some people think adding olive oil to pasta water will stop the pot from boiling over and prevent the noodles from sticking together. Once again, it’s considered a cardinal sin in Italian cooking. Whether it’s fresh or dry pasta, you should never add oil. That’s because the oil will make it hard for the sauce to stick to the pasta.
Our solution: Only add the pasta to the pot when the water is boiling hot. So, stay away from the oil and reach for the salt.
And for more pasta tips, here’s The Best-Ever Way to Keep Your Pasta from Sticking Together.
Not salting the water enough
This is one of those rare instances when you don’t have to go easy on the salt shaker. That’s because the salt lends flavor to your pasta.
Our solution is to add the salt as the water starts to boil, but before you add the noodles to the pot. And remember that you’ll want to add lots of salt.
The best way to determine the quantity of salt to add to the water is by tasting and adjusting the salt until it resembles ocean water.
Waiting too long to stir your noodles
You probably know that you need to stir your noodles to keep them from sticking, but chances are you’re letting the pasta sit awhile and turning your attention to other matters before giving it a good stir—and that’s a big problem.
According to the specialists at Italian food manufacturer Delallo, noodles are more likely to stick together at the beginning of the process, before starches release into the water.
Our solution: The Delallo experts suggest that you stir your pasta within the first few minutes of cooking.
Overcooking your pasta
Originally, Italians prefer serving pasta al dente, which means it’s slightly firm, literally ‘to the bite.’ Overcooking pasta is a common mistake of novice chefs.
Our solution: Reduce the cooking time mentioned on the pasta box by a minute to a minute-and-a-half.
Discarding your pasta water
If you’re a home chef, you most likely strain all of your pasta water after your spaghetti is ready by pouring it down the sink. But not adding pasta water to your dishes is one of the most egregious pasta-making mistakes. You’ll miss out on a huge opportunity to add flavor to your plate.
Our solution: You should try saving some of the pasta water and finish cooking spaghetti in the sauce, adding a little water as needed.
The water that you save from cooking off the pasta will add slight salinity to your dish. The slight starchiness of the water will help bring the sauce and pasta together. Contrary to what you may expect, the sauce does not become watery, but it helps the sauce achieve a better consistency.
Skimping on the ingredients
The ingredients can set apart a simple pasta dish from a great one. Thinking you can skimp on some of the produce, cheese, and other key components because they’ll also be in the sauce is a big mistake.
Our solution: From the fresh tomatoes you use in the sauce to the store-bought pasta, be sure you use the best ingredients.
Don’t be afraid to use different cheeses besides parmesan. You can try pecorino or Ricotta Salata – a version of ricotta that’s drier than regular-style ricotta.
Relying entirely on the sauce
People often drown their pasta in the sauce. And if you only put sauce on top of your spaghetti, you won’t get an even distribution.
Our solution: Pasta dishes should be ‘dressed’ just like a salad.
After it’s cooked, you can remove pasta from the water and place it in your pan filled with sauce. Coat all your pasta in the sauce, adding the water as needed. This way, you’ll be ensuring every piece of pasta gets touched by the sauce.
Throwing pasta down your garbage disposal
If you follow the tips shared in this guide, you will have cleaned plates and no reason for the dish to be tossed out. But if you do have some pasta left, do not put it in the garbage disposal.
Dishes cooked in water, including rice and pasta, may continue to expand in the garbage disposal, clogging your drain.
Our solution: Finish your leftovers or toss them in the trash-can, not down the drain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is chewy pasta undercooked or overcooked?
The only thing that is worse than undercooking your pasta is overcooking it. Undercooked pasta can be hard to chew, but at least you can continue cooking it. Overcooked pasta is gummy, limp, and can’t hold its shape, so there’s no way to save it. Either way, it’s an experience to avoid.
How long can you cook pasta?
Do not rely on the package details to give you the correct cooking time because they’re just guidelines. Start timing when the water starts to a boil—most pasta cooks between 8 to 12 minutes. Try your pasta after about four minutes of cooking by tasting it.
Does pasta float when it’s ready?
Stuffed pasta, like ravioli, rises to the surface when done. Avoid adding oil to the pasta water and stir it often for even cooking. Don’t rinse your pasta when it’s cooked.
Do you cook the pasta with the lid on or off?
Should you cover your pasta when cooking it? It’s okay to put a lid on the stockpot while waiting for the pasta water to boil. However, after it starts to boil and toss the pasta into the water, you should remove its lid to prevent water from bubbling over.
Do you rinse cooked pasta?
Do Not Rinse.
Cooked pasta should not be rinsed. The starch in the water helps the sauce to stick. The only time you should rinse the pasta is when you plan to use it in a cold dish like a salad or when you are not planning to use it immediately.