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.
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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