I’ve studied quite a bit with Italian chefs and have come to love Italian cooking and how Italians view food. With pasta, it’s not so much about the sauce…it’s really about the pasta! Here are just a few things I’ve learned about cooking pasta…
How Much Pasta Per Person?: The simple way to remember how much uncooked pasta is this: Figure a 1-pound box of pasta will serve 4 – 6 people depending on the serving size. For example: If I am serving just a pasta dish alone (no salad, etc.) figure 4 servings per a 1-pound box. If you are serving appetizers and/or salad then a 1-pound box of pasta will likely serve 6 people.
Cook Pasta in Enough Water: When cooking pasta, it needs enough water to cook properly and have enough room to move around while absorbing water.
Follow the directions on the package for the proper amount of water to pasta. Be sure to use a large pot when cooking pasta for several people. Many pots and pans imprint the size on the bottom of the pan. Cooking pasta in too small a pan will result in gummy pasta. Also, be sure to stir your pasta every 3-4 minutes, and especially right after you add the pasta to the boiling water.
Don’t Forget the Salt: Pasta needs a fair amount of salt to add flavor. Remember, there is no salt in the pasta itself.
Follow Package Directions for Cooking Time: Even if the package directions say to cook the pasta for 9 minutes, I like to start checking my pasta for doneness about a minute or two before the box directions suggest so it does not over cook. Pasta is best cooked “al dente”, that means still firm to the bite.
Drain – But Save Some of Your Pasta Water: When you drain your pasta after cooking, be sure to save about a cup of the “hot pasta water”. It comes in very handy in the event your pasta sauce is a bit too thick or dry.
Do not over drain your pasta to where it is dry. You need to drain the pasta to the point that it has “dropped” most of its water. This will help your pasta and sauce blend together much better.
If/When to Rinse: A good rule to remember: rinse just cooked pasta only if it is going into a pasta salad. If you do not, then prepare yourself for a gummy salad. Never rinse pasta that will be served immediately as the starch is needed to hold the sauce.
Heat Your Serving Bowls: When serving pasta, always warm your serving bowls as it helps to keep your pasta warm longer. When I drain the pasta, I put the colander right over the serving bowls. The hot pasta water serves as a way to heat up the bowls quickly. An alternative method is to place the bowls in a warm oven for a few minutes before dishing up the pasta.