Let's have a review of pasta rules, shall we? I still hear far too many people ask whether they should rinse their cooked pasta or not. Really? Haven't we settled this long ago? I guess some myths still remain. So let's just touch on some helpful rules of cooking pasta:
Six Rules of Pasta
1. Weigh your pasta. Over the years, I got tired of making way too much pasta or trying to eyeball how much to cook. Now, I just weigh my pasta. It's accurate and easy. Get yourself a nice little scale - you will use it for a hundred tasks in the kitchen - and weigh your pasta. Determine how much pasta you eat for a main dish or a side dish. We usually eat 2 ounces each as a main dish. It's so much better to just weigh it and know exactly how much you are cooking.
to weigh spaghetti, I use a corn-on-the-cob holder
2. Salt your water. In Italy, they salt the water for pasta heavily - they say it should taste like the ocean. Use kosher salt or even better, sea salt. The pasta will absorb this seasoning in a way that is not the same as adding salt after it's cooked. And it's not necessary to add any oil into the water.
3. Be wary of pasta package directions - the cooking times are usually too long for al dente pasta. For instance, Barilla thin spaghetti's directions say to cook it for 6 minutes. I cook mine exactly 4 minutes.
4. Don't pour out your pasta water. This is the way most Americans cook their pasta - they carry the pot over to the sink and dump it all out in a colander and let all that great pasta water go down the drain. The pasta water actually contains a lot of starch and it will help the pasta cling to the sauce. Do not rinse your pasta! Pasta water also helps if your pasta is sticking together - a couple of tablespoons of pasta water and the pasta magically separates itself. The only time I drain my pasta is when I don't want the any water to dilute a sauce like a thick bolognese sauce. Otherwise, most sauces for pasta I make on the stove right beside the pasta pot and use the pasta water as part of the sauce.
5. Don't oversauce your pasta. This is a pet peeve of mine when I go out to eat and order pasta - a lot of places put way too much sauce on the pasta. The sauce should just coat the pasta, not drown it.
6. Let the sauce and pasta cook together for a couple of minutes. When your pasta has almost finished cooking, toss it in the skillet first with your sauce, let it cook for a minute and allow the sauce to come together with the pasta and then transfer it to the serving dish. I like to set my skillet or pot that has my sauce right up against the pasta pot on the stove. Then I just take tongs or a handle strainer and lift the pasta out and place it right into my skillet - I like the pasta water that is still clinging to the pasta to go right into the pot, as I do in this pasta recipe. The pasta water can thin out a too thick sauce. Your pasta should be thoroughly and completely coated with the sauce before you serve it - don't serve a pile of pasta with a ladeful of sauce just sitting on top.
These are the most important rules of cooking pasta that I think you should keep in mind. What are your pasta rules?