6 tips you need to know if you want to cook the best pasta dishes ever

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Ask anyone what their favorite type of food is and there's a good chance you'll get 'pasta' as an answer. It's no wonder why, either. Pasta is comforting, filling, and pretty easy to make, right? Well, even if you've been satisfied with the dishes of pasta you've been making in your kitchen, there's a chance it could be better.
That's because there are many common mistakes that can be made when cooking pasta. And if you're making those mistakes, your pasta might still be pretty good, but it could be even better. So the next time you're ready to whip up your favorite food, follow these tips and get perfect pasta every single time.
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1. Use the right pot
Maybe your big pasta pot is still dirty in the sink from the last time you cooked pasta. Or maybe you don't have any big pots. Whatever the reason, it can be tempting to use whatever pot you have on hand when that pasta craving strikes; but it's a big mistake.
When pasta is cooked in a pot that's too small, it doesn't have the room it needs to move around. Movement is important when cooking pasta because it prevents it from clumping and allows it to cook evenly. So if you only have small pots, only use small pasta such as macaroni or bow-tie pasta. If you want longer noodles such as fettuccine or spaghetti, you'll need to get a large pot with deep sides.
2. Salt the water - heavily
Many people salt their pasta water before adding the pasta, but they add only a teaspoon or tablespoon. And that's just not enough, as not all of the salt will be absorbed by the pasta. This step is the only chance you have to flavor the actual pasta, inside and out, so it needs to be seasoned very well. Mario Batali, the Italian celebrity chef, has become famous for saying that pasta water should 'taste like the sea' and he's not wrong. For a large pot, even 1/4 cup of salt isn't too much so use a heavy hand here.
One last note about salting the water. Don't just salt it right after you fill the pot, as it will sit too long in the water and won't be absorbed into the pasta. But do salt the water - generously - right after it comes to a boil and before you put the pasta in.
3. Stir the pasta
If you just dump the pasta in and let it sit while it cooks, you'll end up with a big clump of pasta that's not evenly cooked. So some pieces will be overcooked while others are still hard. The beginning of cook time is the most important to ensure it doesn't stick together, but it really should be cooked throughout the entire cooking time.
4. Reserve some pasta water
No matter how good of a sauce you've made to accompany your pasta, reserved pasta water will make it even better. Not only will it bring more of that salt to the dish, but it will also help your sauce stick better to the pasta because it has so much of that starch in it that cooked off.
To do this, dip in a coffee mug (or other sturdy and heatproof dish) into the pasta water and remove about a cup. Set it aside while you drain the pasta and then place it back into the pot. Add your sauce and the reserved pasta water and give it a good stir. You may not need the entire cup, but use as much as you need until it's at the desired consistency.
5. Don't cook it for too long
Even the professional pasta makers that boxed your pasta for you aren't the experts here. While they know that most of us want al dente pasta, that is pasta that still has some bite to it, the times they give for that are way too long. As a general rule, pasta only needs approximately seven minutes to cook but it will depend on how much pasta you're cooking and the brand you're using.
To get around this, subtract two minutes from the stated time on the box and use that as a guideline to start testing your pasta. If your pasta is going to cook in the sauce for a minute or two, take it out just before it turns al dente, which means it will still have quite a bit of bite left to it. It will cook further in the sauce and become softer.
6. Drain it properly
There are actually two steps involved to draining it properly. That is of course after you've reserved some of the cooking water. The first step is to drain the pasta immediately. Removing the pot from the heat and letting it sit on the stove is not enough, as the cooking water will still be incredibly hot and will continue to cook the pasta. And that will result in overcooked pasta. Instead, drain the pasta as soon as you've achieved the perfect texture.
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The second step to draining pasta properly is to not allow it to sit in the colander after it's been drained. You've done all that work to keep it from clumping, but if it's left in the colander those starches will adhere to each other and start clumping the pieces of pasta together. Drain the pasta immediately, and then toss it in the sauce right away. If you're not using a sauce like pesto or tomato sauce, add butter or oil to the noodles so you can enjoy it without having big clumps to eat.
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