Perfect Pasta

Cook the Right Amount of Pasta
Most packages list a 2-ounce serving size, but a more generous main-dish measure is 4 ounces dried pasta or 3 ounces fresh pasta per person. The cooked yield of pasta depends on its shape: Four ounces of tube-shaped pasta, like penne, equals 21⁄2 cups cooked; 4 ounces of long-strand pasta, like spaghetti, equals 2 cups cooked; 4 ounces of egg noodles equals 3 cups cooked.

Cook Pasta in Enough Water
Use at least four quarts of water for each pound of pasta. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat. Salt the water, then stir in the pasta.

Be Sure to Salt the Water
Pasta doesn’t contain salt, so it needs to be cooked in salted water to be seasoned properly. If you are concerned about the amount of sodium in your diet, rest assured that only 10 percent of the salt in the cooking water is absorbed by the pasta. The basic proportion is 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of pasta.

Stir Frequently
Stirring ensures even cooking and keeps pasta from clumping together and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Do not add oil to the cooking water; it prevents sauce from clinging to the pasta.

Don’t Overcook Pasta
The cooking time on pasta packages is only a guide, so start checking for doneness before the suggested time and check often. To test pasta for doneness, remove a piece from the boiling water, rinse it briefly under warm water, and bite into it. When pasta is perfectly cooked, it should be al dente (“to the tooth”) with no raw flour taste and a tiny chalk white center. After it’s drained, pasta will continue to cook from the residual heat and from the hot sauce with which it’s tossed. If the pasta is to be baked, undercook it slightly, since it will continue to cook in the oven.

Drain Well and Don’t Rinse
Drain the pasta in a colander, shaking to remove excess water. Don’t rinse pasta; rinsing cools down pasta and removes both the surface starch that keeps it firm and its essential nutrients. Only lasagna noodles and pasta for salad should be rinsed.

Serve It Hot
When pasta stands, it gets cold and unappetizingly gummy. So call everyone to the table while you’re tossing the pasta. To keep it as hot as possible, return the drained pasta to the cooking pot, which will still be warm, and combine it with the sauce there. Or warm the serving bowl and the individual bowls.

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