10 Mistakes You're Making When Cooking Pasta

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Pasta is my favorite meal, which is why I've spent years of my life trying to perfect this staple food.

Years of trial and error have taught me why so many people struggle with cooking pasta, but there are actually super easy fixes to all these common mistakes.

If you're tired of making pasta that lacks flavor, is too soggy, firm, or oily, keep reading!

1. Adding oil to pasta water

The first thing I learned when cooking pasta is to add oil to the water.

It took years of trial and error until I realized that adding oil at any point, whether it be to the pasta water or cooked pasta, will only lead to unnecessary grease.

If you're adamant about adding oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together, only pour a very small amount.

That being said, there is a way to prevent pasta from sticking together without using oil. Keep reading to find out!

2. Not adding enough salt

Every food needs seasoning, and the best way to get your pasta tasting delicious is by giving it some extra flavor while it's cooking.

According to food and health magazine Chatelaine, your pasta water should "taste like the sea."

They also recommend following these measurements: Three liters (close to a gallon) of water for a minimum of 1 tablespoon of salt.

3. Using a small pot

If you have to break your spaghetti to make it all fit in the pot, you're doing it wrong.

Also, if there's not enough space for the noodles to expand and move around, you may run into problems, like making sticky pasta.

According to Chatelaine, "the rule of thumb is at least three liters of water to every 250g of pasta."

It can be tough to figure out how much is the right amount of pasta. I recommend a measuring tool like this one!*

You want to make sure you bring enough cold water to boil so that when the pasta is added, it will come back to boil immediately. The more you wait, the worse off your pasta is.

4. Forgetting to stir at the right times

I've heard all sorts of things when it comes to stirring pasta. Some people argue that you should stir constantly, and others argue that you shouldn't stir at all!

What I've concluded is that stirring is crucial.

The first thing you should do when you add your pasta to the boiled water is stir.

This will prevent your noodles from sticking together, and occasionally stirring every now and then will prevent giant clumps.

5. Adding pasta to the water at the wrong time

There's a right and wrong time for everything when cooking pasta, but luckily the rules are easy to remember.

Another thing you should keep in mind is to always add pasta when the water is boiling.

I've seen people add pasta right when the water starts to form bubbles. This is wrong!

The starch in the pasta absorbs water immediately, so you want the water to be boiling to prevent sogginess.

6. Creating your own rules

We all consider ourselves the chefs of our own kitchen, but there's no shame in following directions.

Every pasta you buy has its own special needs. For example, some need to be cooked for longer, and others don't.  

Reading the packaging and checking the cooking time is crucial.

Make sure you test your pasta at least a few minutes before the instructed cooking time, and keep checking every thirty seconds after that.

Keep in mind, pasta should be tender, but firm to the tooth.

7. Not saving the cooking water

Most people drain the pasta water immediately, which isn't necessarily the wrong thing to do, but by saving the water you could add more flavor to your pasta sauce.

Chatelaine recommends adding a "touch of pasta water to your sauce" to add "richness and flavor."

8. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Almost everybody I know uses a colander to drain and rinse their pasta in the sink.

The problem is that by rinsing the noodles you're stripping away the starch that helps sauce cling to pasta.

What's worse is that you're also washing away the flavor!

When draining your pasta, gently shake the colander to remove excess water.

9. Letting your pasta dry

Before you cook pasta, or while you're cooking it, make sure you've prepared whatever else you need for your meal, like the sauce and/or vegetables.

Allowing your pasta to sit and cool off, even if it's only for a few minutes, will cause the starches to stick together.

You've worked so hard! Might as well be prepared so that you can enjoy your meal!

10. Adding sauce to your pasta

Pasta should always be added to the sauce, never vice-versa.

And make sure you're heating your sauce in a separate pan that has enough room for all your noodles.

Badda bing, badda boom! Cooking pasta the right way is easier than you thought, am I right? Share these helpful tips with a friend!

[H/T: Chatelaine / Kitchn]

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