5 rules to win at pasta

Pasta is a staple of the Italian cuisine and many Italians eat it almost every day. And it’s not just Italians that love pasta. According to the National Pasta Association, the United States is the largest pasta market worldwide.

We all love pasta and it’s not difficult to understand why. It’s delicious and easy to cook, and as a plant-based food, it can provide a healthy alternative to eating meat. It also has a very low environmental impact. From farm to factory to your kitchen table, pasta can be sustainably produced which means that eating pasta is good for you and the planet.

But with all the pasta eating around the world, are you sure you know the best way to prepare it? While there is plenty of room for creativity, there are some ground rules for cooking pasta like an Italian.

Here are the top five non-negotiable pasta rules to win at pasta every time.

  1. Dry pasta and fresh pasta are different, but equal. Fresh pasta is not better than dry pasta. It’s different. Fresh pasta is more delicate as it is made with eggs and is often used for creamy or buttery sauces that benefit from its tenderness. Dry pasta is typically made without eggs and is sturdier and better for heavy sauces. It can be used to make topnotch restaurant-quality pasta dishes just like fresh pasta. It’s also one of the best ways to get a delicious meal on the table fast and to always have something on hand for dinner.
  2. Use a big pot with plenty of water. Keep your pasta from sticking by giving it plenty of space to wiggle. There is a general rule of 1 liter of water and 10 grams of salt for every 100 grams of pasta, but if you use a big pot with plenty of water you should be fine. And don’t forget to stir occasionally.
  3. Add salt when the water boils. Bring the water to a boil before adding salt. Don’t be shy with the salt either. I typically throw in at least a palmful of coarse salt when making pasta. Tone it down a little for balance if you plan on using other very salty ingredients. The pasta will absorb the salt while it cooks resulting in a dish that is salty inside and out. Never add oil to the pasta water as it will keep your sauce from sticking.
  4. Do not break long pasta to fit it in the pot. Your pot is likely too small for a full-length strand of spaghetti and that’s fine. Put the spaghetti in as far as you can and then wait a couple of seconds until the strands soften. Then use a wooden spoon to gently push the pasta fully underwater. The length of spaghetti is an optimal length for eating and winding around your fork. If half-sized pasta was ideal, then pasta would be sold in half-sized boxes. It’s not. Let it be long and learn how to twirl it like a pro.
  5. Do not overcook pasta. Pasta is most delicious and healthy when it is cooked “al dente”. Al dente means to the tooth and refers to pasta that is still firm to the bite. Undercooked pasta is white on the inside. Pasta is considered al dente just after the white center disappears. Not only is overcooked pasta mushy and less delicious, but it also has a higher glycemic index. Pasta cooked al dente is healthier because the lower glycemic index means that your body digests it slower and releases energy more efficiently.

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