How To Cook Perfect Pasta
To cook perfect pasta, you will need approximately 5-quarts per pound of pasta. A too-small pot and too little water encourages the pasta to clump and stick together, thus cooking unevenly.
My Health Craft 6½-quart tall stockpot and 6-quart pasta colander was created specifically for cook one pound (16 ounces) of all pasta. Place the 6-quart pasta colander inside the 6½-quart stockpot and add 5 quarts of filtered COLD water, or fill with water to about a ½-inch below the row of large pasta colander holes.
Bring water to a boil over high heat 450°F (232°C). Covering the pot and opening the lid-vent will bring the water to a boil faster. Do not add salt until the water has come to a full boil. There are two reasons for this:
First, unsalted water has a lower boiling point than salted water, so it will come to a boil a few seconds faster.
Second and more important, salt dissolves faster in hot water. Un-dissolved salt crystals in cold water can mar the surface of your stainless-steel pots with small white dots or pits.
Add the salt, up to 2 tablespoons of kosher (coarse) salt per pound of pasta. This may seem like a lot, but it is necessary for getting the pasta properly seasoned. Plus, most of the salt drains off with the water. If you taste the salted water, it should resemble "sea water." NOTE: If you are on a sodium restricted diet, please follow your doctor’s orders before adding salt.
Do NOT add oil of any kind. Oil has the unwanted effect of coating the pasta so the sauce will not stick.
Add the pasta, all at once, to the boiling salted water, and keep the heat high to bring the water back to the boil as quickly as possible. Stir with a long stainless steel spoon or fork (stirring prevents pasta from sticking to each other and from sticking to the bottom and the edge of pan). Frequent stirring while the pasta is cooking will help the pasta to cook
Cook the pasta, uncovered, at a fast boil. As long as the pasta/water mixture is at or below the large holes at the top of the pasta-colander it should not foam up and over the side of the pot. If it does, simply lift the past-colander up an inch or two and adjust the heat.
Cooking Time: Don't rely on the package to give you the correct cooking time (this is only a guideline). Start timing when the water returns to a boil. Most pastas cook in 8-12 minutes. NOTE: Fresh homemade pasta will cook in half the time or less.
Test dry pasta for doneness after about 4 minutes of cooking by tasting it. It is difficult to give exact cooking times since different shapes and thickness of pasta will take less or more time to cook.
Watch the cooking process of the pasta carefully. Pasta can overcook very quickly. Pasta should be tender but still firm when you eat it, what Italians call "al dente." To be sure, bite into a piece of the pasta (take a piece of pasta from the pan, cut off a tiny piece, and chew it in your mouth). REMEMBER - Pasta will continue to cook and soften even after it has been taken from the water.
Definition of "al dente" (ahl-DEN-tay): In Italian the phrase means "to the tooth" and is a term used to describe the correct degree of doneness when cooking pasta, risotto, and vegetables. The food should have a slight resistance (chewy) when biting into it, but should not be soft, overdone, or have a hard center. Once the pasta is “al dente”, immediately turn off or remove from the heat source, and add 1 cup COLD water or ice cubes to the hot water to stop the cooking.
Cooking Pasta for Baked Dishes: Because the pasta is cooked twice (boiled first and then combined with other ingredients and cooked in the oven), pasta in baked dishes should boil less time than normal. Boil until just flexible but still quite firm (usually about a 1/3 of the normal cooking time). To test, cut into a piece.
Drain immediately by lifting the Health Craft Pasta-Colander out of the stockpot and shake it well over the sink to remove excess water.
DO NOT rinse unless the recipe says to do so. Starch that makes the pasta stick to itself also helps the sauce stick to the pasta. If you're going to toss the pasta with the sauce immediately, sticking shouldn't be a problem.
SAVE A CUP OF PASTA WATER: Once your pasta is ready, turn off the heat and scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking water and set aside. This reserved pasta water contains essential starch that can be used later to adjust the consistency of your sauce, from thickening it to thinning it. This soupy looking water you used to throw down the drain is actually a miracle ingredient!
FRESH TOMATO or SEAFOOD: Except when saucing with thin broth or sauce such as fresh tomato or seafood, pasta needs to be moist to combine well. As soon as it is drained, remove it from the colander and place it either back in the cooking pan to keep warm to toss it with the sauce, or place it in a preheated serving dish or individual preheated serving bowls. Once the pasta is in the pan or bowl, use a fork and spoon and quickly toss it with the sauce.
LASAGNA: Do rinse the wide pasta, such as lasagna noodles. If you don't, you will have a hard time separating the noodles without tearing them. Homemade Lasagna pasta needs no rinsing. When using boxed pasta I will layer my lasagna with uncooked pasta.