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How to Properly Cook Pasta

Written by Danielle Travali.

Pasta is one of the most common and most affordable foods available! And it tastes the most delicious when cooked properly. We'll show you how to do just that.

What You Need:

  • Large saucepot 
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Spoon with a long handle
  • Kitchen timer
  • Colander or slotted spoon for draining the pasta 
  • A large, shallow frying pan
  • Homemade marinara sauce 

What You Do:

Step 1: Fill your saucepot with water. Fill it up high, but all the way to the top. The starch of the pasta will cause the water to bubble over if you put too much. But don't put too little, either, because you don't want the pasta to stick. 3/4 of the way up is a good stopping point

Step 2: Sprinkle in a good handful of salt. This is what gives your pasta that delicious flavor! You don't need to add oil, though some people put it in because they like the flavor. If you're going to add oil, add it to the pasta afterward, not while boiling. Despite what some might believe, the oil really doesn't do much to help the pasta cook properly. 

Step 3: Turn up the heat and let the water come to a full boil, which means that you'll see large bubbles rolling in the pot after about 15 minutes.

Step 4: Slowly add a generous amount of pasta to the pot -- about 4 or 5 cups if it's a large saucepot. Don't fill the entire pot with pasta because the pasta will then stick to the pot and not cook properly. Understand that pasta will also expand in size when you cook it. Make sure you add the pasta slowly, though, because if you're not careful, the water will splash and you'll burn yourself.

Step 5: Stir the pasta very well so that it doesn't stick.

Step 6: Set the timer for about 10 minutes. You want al dente pasta, which means "to the tooth" in Italian. You want a bit of a bite but you don't want the pasta to be raw. Ten minutes usually does the trick, and the cooking time is much shorter if you're using freshly made pasta. You can actually cut the cooking time in half for fresh pasta. It will cook very, very quickly. But with the boxed pasta, please give enough cooking time. Reach in with your slotted spoon after ten minutes and remove a strand of pasta to check the consistency. Be careful; it'll be hot. Taste it and see if it needs some extra cooking time. If it's semi soft and tender with a slightly firm bite, your pasta is perfect and ready to be served.

Step 7: If, while cooking, your pasta water starts to boil over, lower the heat ever so slightly.

Step 8: Turn off the heat and carefully pour the pasta into a colander in the kitchen sink. Another option is to use a slotted spoon and fish out the pasta. This usually works best with smaller types of pasta such as bowties and elbows. Save a little bit of the pasta water for cooking your pasta in the sauce.

Step 9: Place a bit of your homemade marinara sauce (about 1/3 cup) into a frying pan (one that's deep enough to stir a lot of pasta without falling over the sides). Turn the heat up to medium, wait until the sauce heats up a bit and then add the pasta. Never pour the sauce over the pasta -- it's always the other way around. Why? Because the pasta will absorb the pasta much better when it's placed into the frying pan with the sauce and then tossed in with the sauce. 

Step 10: After you've added the pasta to the pan, stir in a drop of the pasta water to help create a nice consistency and add an additional amount of sauce if you desire.

Step 11: Stir the pasta very well.

Step 12: Add any herbs or spices to the top of the pasta. Then, turn off the heat.

Step 13: Sprinkle cheese on top if desired.

Step 14: Serve!


If you've followed all the steps, you're on your way to becoming a pasta-cooking pro. Enjoy, and be sure to share this recipe with your friends and family members who would like to learn THE way to make pasta!


Danielle Travali, MS
Danielle Travali, MS

Danielle Travali, also known to many as the Web and television personality "Holly Pinafore," is a journalist, entrepreneur, and food & wine enthusiast. She is a certified food coach, stress management coach and fitness trainer who studied mindful eating and food psychology. Danielle also holds a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac Un.. Read more

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