Six Pasta Rules
September 24, 2013


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? 


Article originally appeared on The Italian Dish (
See website for complete article licensing information.