A very important rule in cooking pasta is that you should prepare it just before you are about to eat, to keep it fresh and chewable. Preparing it hours ahead will leave it dried up, which actually affects the quality of your meal. Boiling pasta is really fairly easy. Here’s how:
- Prepare your boiling water. Take note that pasta must be cooked in lots of water, so you must boil this using a large pot. If you use a small pot, with little water, you run the risk of having a lumpy, unevenly cooked pasta. If you have about 16 ounces of pasta, for example, make sure that the water is about 6 quarts on the cooking pot. Do not immediately put your pasta into the pot, though, not unless the water is already boiling.
- Cover the pot of water as you wait for it to boil. This will help speed up the process of boiling.
- When the water is nearly boiling, add about two tablespoons of salt, as this will help bring out the pasta's flavor. Use coarse salt (kosher) for this. Don't worry about adding too much, as two tablespoons is necessary for a properly seasoned pasta meal. If you are on a strict diet however, you must reduce the quantity to what the doctor has ordered. Don't add the salt before the water has been boiled as this will slow down the boiling process. At the same time, very hot water keeps salt deposits from damaging your pots. If you put the salt in before the water is even hot, you allow deposits to stay in your wares and sometimes these are harder to remove.
- Some recipes will call for you to add oil onto the boiling water. You may or may not prefer to do this. Oil will keep pasta from sticking onto the pot or clumping together. But it will also prevent the pasta sauce from adhering to the pasta, thereby reducing the flavor of your food. If you decide not to use oil in boiling your pasta though, make sure you stir the pasta in the boiling water regularly with a wooden spoon. Stirring will help keep the pasta from sticking together or sticking onto the pot.
- Pasta usually cooks between 4-8 minutes, depending on the shapes and sizes. But you can test if this is already done by taking a small piece and tasting if it's firm or mushy. Be careful though, as pasta can overcook really fast and you should aim to cook this "Al Dente" or with a little bit of firmness. Pasta that's cooked well should also not have a harder center. If you have to bake your pasta dish, consider boiling it at a lesser time than usual, to keep its firmness even after baking.
- Once you know you have al dente pasta, turn off your stove and remove the pot. Using a strainer or colander, pour the contents of your pot. Some recipes will call for running the pasta in cold water. The cold water should stop the cooking process, however, as with the principle of using oil while boiling pasta, this too will prohibit the sauce from properly adhering to the food. Also make sure that the pasta is not over drained as this will become very sticky and affect your dish.