It may seem like making pasta is a no-brainer. You boil water, you throw a box of pasta in, and about 10 minutes later you’re good to go. But if you’ve ever wondered why your pasta isn’t quite as perfect as your favorite Italian bistro’s, it may be because you’re missing one of these key secrets.
A Big Pot
Pasta needs to boil in a lot of water (uncovered, please). When pasta is too crowded, it doesn’t have any room to move and the result is a sticky, clingy mess of starch. By using a big pot full of water, and stirring often, you’ll have perfect, separated pasta every time.
Salt brings out the flavor in foods. Most recipes will instruct you to boil pasta in heavily salted water—and it’s true that it does add an additional depth of flavor to your dish. However, keep this in mind when you’re seasoning your sauce, especially if your recipe calls for you to reserve some of the pasta’s cooking liquid.*
An Oven Timer
I’ve been making pasta so long, I don’t need a timer, but I use one any way. Using the oven timer ensures that you can take care of any last minute sauce needs without being too worried about what’s going on in your pasta pot. As long as you manage to stir it every couple of minutes, it’ll be fine. And you know that when that time beeps, it’s time to stop what you’re doing and drain the pasta in a colander to ensure that perfect al dente texture.
*The water the pasta is cooked in is already salted and contains starch from the pasta. Recipes will often instruct you to reserve about a cup of this liquid to help sticky sauces evenly coat the pasta.