Cooking pasta properly is as important as making a great sauce to go with it.
There’s no point spending hours making the best Bolognese sauce if the spaghetti is overcooked and soggy.
Things to note:
- Always start with plenty of water. For a 500gm packet of pasta, use at least 4 litres of rapidly boiling water (about 100gm of dried pasta per person is a generous serve).
- The water should be quite salty to really bring out the flavour of the pasta (about 2 tbsp to 4 litres of water is good). It should be almost as salty as sea water! Adding olive oil to the water is an old wives tale and isn’t necessary at all. It’s just a waste of good oil!
- Add the pasta to the rapidly boiling, salted water and give it a good stir so the pieces don’t stick together. Give it a gentle stir every few minutes while it’s cooking as well.
- All pasta takes a different amount of time to cook depending on its size, shape and thickness. Generally it will be stated on the packet how long it should take. Fresh pasta generally only takes a couple of minutes, spaghettini takes about 5 minutes, whereas penne pasta takes around 12 minutes.
- Pasta should be cooked “al dente” or, literally translated, “to the tooth”, which means it should still have a little bit of a chewy bite to it rather than being completely soft all of the way through. When you think it’s almost done, fish a piece out and have a taste to check how cooked it is. Remember that once you drain it, it will continue to cook for another minute or two just from its residual heat.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well in a colander, sprinkle with a little olive oil to stop it sticking together as it cools, and spread out in a single layer on a tray. From here, you can cover and refrigerate it until needed, or reheat it for a couple of seconds in boiling water and add it to your favourite sauce.