Cooking Pasta

Cooking Pasta to get that, to the tooth bite, and it's not just boiling the water that makes it great. Al Dente is the Italian term used to describe a perfectly cooked pasta and means to the tooth. Pasta should be cooked with a little hard center as if to put a little texture to the tooth.

Does it make a difference if it's homemade pasta and dried pasta? Absolutely but that's not all! What if you're making a homemade pasta? Try cooking that for 10 to 15 minutes and you're going to end up with a flour soup. It will turn to mush and if you spent all of that time making fresh pasta you're not going to be a happy chef.

Would you cook Angel Hair pasta the same amount of time as cooking rigatoni or a thicker pasta shape? Heck no! The rigatoni wouldn't be to the tooth but it might break your tooth. If you're cooking pasta for a crowd and using 2-3 pounds of pasta that will increase the amount of cooking time as well just because of the volume of water and pasta. Or say you want to add pasta to your Italian soup recipe. If you add an al dente pasta to a pasta soup the pasta will expand and soak up all of the delicious broth that makes a soup, a soup.

How about the brand of pasta you're using. Does that matter? It sure does. I've used some pasta brands where they blow up like a balloon and become mushy no matter how little I cooked them. Other good quality brands you’d have a difficult time over cooking.

Ok… so how do you know? Do you throw a piece against the wall and if it sticks then you know that it's done? No! Let's talk about how to tell if the pasta is cooked.

Cooking dried pasta:

Step one is to salt the boiling water. For a pound of pasta I would fill a pot with 2 ½ to 3 quarts of water, “pastaadd a tablespoon of regular salt or two tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil. I just fill up my palm and toss it in. Don't waste your good olive oil by adding it to the water. It doesn't do anything but waste good olive oil. It's better to drizzle a table spoon of olive oil over the cooked pasta for flavor or to prevent sticking.

A good guide to cooking pasta is use durum semolina pasta cut with a bronze plated die. This gives the pasta that porous look and that type of pasta holds up well under boiling water and is difficult to over cook. You can tell when a teflon die has been used to produce the pasta because it has a shiny flat surface. Check out my different types of pasta page for all the details.

Trimming DoughIf you cooking Angel hair pasta, don't leave the pot. Stand there, bring the water to boiling and add the angel hair pasta. It will be done in about 3 minutes.

Thicker pasta shapes like rigatoni could take up to 10 minutes to cook and pastina or tiny pasta take less then a minute. For pasta soups I cook the pasta so it isn't al dente but not mushy.

Confused? Don't be. Ultimately you just need to pay attention. Stick close to the kitchen and test the cooking pasta by taking a little piece out of the boiling water and biting into it? If you see a slightly different color to the pasta in the center, as shown here, and it has a toothiness to it, then it's probably done.

Cooking Pasta That's Homemade or Fresh:

Boil the water with salt, same as usual. But this time when you add your fresh pasta noodle make sure to turn down the heat just a little. Fresh pasta tends to make the water foamy and it might over flow.

It only takes a couple of minutes to cook fresh pasta so again, keep an eye on it and take out a piece to test it after a minute or two. It shouldn't have a doughy texture or taste but it won't be al dente either. For some types of pasta it will float when it's done.

I like to drain and rinse with cool water for 2 seconds and then toss in olive oil or toss in with your heated sauce to get it warm again. This helps stop the cooking process and if it's a flavored pasta it will help keep it's color.

So there you have it. A simple step by step guide.

Vivere, Amare, Ridere e Mangiare Bene
Live, Love, Laugh and Eat Well!
Kira Volpi

Do you have a pasta recipe to share? Just like this cooking pasta page I will post it right here on this site for a whole page dedicated to your Italian pasta recipe.

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