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Photo by Krista Stucchio on Unsplash

How to fix all of the mistakes you've been making when cooking pasta

We're facing an indefinite amount of time in our homes so you may as well learn how to perfect your tagliatelle.


Laugh all you want – but with indefinite lockdown ahead, we've decided to up our home pasta game wholly and entirely. 

For those of us who spent our university years living on a diet of penne and pesto, pasta may not excite you in the same way it does most. 

But, what if we told you that you could easily prepare restaurant-worthy pasta from home – in a far simpler way than you previously thought?

As it turns out, there’s actually a lot more to cooking the Italian staple than tossing it into a pan of water and leaving it to do its thing.

Here, we reveal eight failsafe tips to help you cook perfect pasta.

READ MORE: Our favourite carbonara recipe

Photo by Wendy Rake on Unsplash
Photo by Wendy Rake on Unsplash

Use a big pan – The bigger, the better

If there is not enough water, then the pasta will become mushy and sticky. To quote Nigella Lawson: “The pasta should be able to move around a little in the water so if you are cooking larger quantities of pasta then you will need a large saucepan or stock pot.”

Boil water before adding the pasta

Only once your water has reached boiling point should you add your pasta and when you do, do so slowly, as this will keep it from forming a large clump at the bottom.

Be attentive

You should stir the pasta once it is added to the water to keep it from sticking together. If you want to cook perfect pasta then this tip will make sure that it cooks evenly, resulting in a delicious dish.

READ MORE: Pasta with pumpkin, ricotta and brown butter

Never, ever add oil

Guido Pedrelli, the founder of Nonna Box, recently set the cat amongst the pigeons when he announced that there’s no point in adding oil to your pasta’s water.

“There is a common myth that oiling the water your pasta is cooking in will prevent it from sticking, but this is untrue,” he tells Metro. “In fact, oil and water do not mix, so it is unlikely that any oil will transfer onto the pasta during the cooking process.”

And the worst part? Well, if any oil were to attach to the pasta, it would be after the cooking process when the pasta is being drained which has a detrimental effect.

“It will prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta,” she says.

READ MORE: Five perfect pasta dishes

Always add salt 

The Italians have a word "sciocca" which means both that their pasta lacks salt and "silly".

There’s no scientific reason to add salt to your water, but it helps you to cook perfect pasta and makes it taste better.

That’s right: salted water flavours the pasta from the inside out as the pasta absorbs the water, leading to tastier pasta. So make sure you add at least a pinch of salt to your water when you’re cooking up your next spaghetti feast.

Use a timer

When in doubt, follow this rule from Lawson: “Bring your water to the boil, add salt, then tip in the pasta, stirring well to make sure it’s all in and not clumped together. Once the water comes back to the boil, let the pasta cook for two minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean, thin tea towel (not a waffle-textured one) and clamp on a tight-fitting lid." 

“Let the pasta stand like this for as long as the packet tells you to cook it normally (usually seven minutes). When the time is up, drain the pasta, remembering to remove a small cupful of cooking water before doing so.”

Don't rinse your pasta after cooking

Perhaps the most perplexing activity when it comes to pasta cooking is the act of washing away of starch when your pasta comes off the boil.

According to Giada de Laurentiis (via her cookbook Everyday Pasta), “the starch on the surface contributes flavour and helps the sauce adhere.” 

Starch is important here – don't fall at the final hurdle and jeopardise your sauce. 

Buon appetito!

This recipe was originally posted on our sister website, Irish Tatler.

READ MORE: The pantry staples we think we should have at home right now