Spaghetti is a classic dish and a favorite of many, but so many people manage to cook it badly or completely wrong altogether. Spaghetti is a long pasta shape that comes in various sizes. The average length is around 12 inches, and some varieties can even reach lengths of 20 inches!
When preparing spaghetti, you should boil it until al dente, then drain it well before adding it to your delicious sauce. Ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese can then be added to the table.
You can serve spaghetti in a myriad of ways; with tomato sauce, meatballs, vegetables, or bolognese just to name a few.
That One Spaghetti Rule That CAN’T Be Broken
Pasta night is usually the best night of the week. A carb-heavy dinner, sauce (or butter), or meatballs — it’s an easy, comforting meal!
Pasta is famously simple to make, which means anyone can do so safely. You just need to boil the water, add the noodles of your choice and let them cook until they’re perfectly al dente, right?
Yes, theoretically. But if you’re deciding between spaghetti and smaller pasta, like rotini and pappardelle, there are certain rules you need to follow. That is unless you want to upset the Italians.
There’s one thing that you shouldn’t do when making pasta, which is probably something you’ve done at some point. It all has to come down to preparation. Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re making longer forms of pasta:
Do NOT Break The Spaghetti Before Cooking
This sounds obvious, but it’s important to remember. When you break them into smaller pieces, you expose less surface area to the heat and therefore slow down their cooking time.
The only problem when it comes to cooking pasta — or similarly long noodles like angel hair, linguine, or fettuccine — is trying to get them to fit into a pot.
Unless you have a large enough pot of boiling water, you’re probably left having half of the noodles submerged and half stuck up at an awkward angle. It’s tempting to snap the pasta into smaller pieces so that they’re all immersed in the boiling water.
After all, you would expect that would make them cook more evenly. But apparently, this is a big faux pas when it comes to pasta.
The reason you shouldn’t break your spaghetti before cooking is because the noodles are supposed to be eaten by twisting them around your fork. It’s hard to do that when you’re given tiny, broken-up bits of spaghetti instead of whole noodles.
The Right Method For Cooking Spaghetti
If you’re looking to make sure that your pasta cooks properly, you might consider using two different methods.
One method involves bringing the water to a rolling boil and adding the pasta. Once the water boils, reduce the heat slightly and simmer the pasta for about 10 minutes.
The other method involves bringing the water almost to a boil, then reducing the heat to medium-low and letting the pasta sit in the water for about 8 to 12 minutes.
When you use the first method, you risk overcooking the pasta. If the pasta starts sticking together after it’s been cooked, you should toss it with a little bit of olive oil and serve it immediately.
When you use the second method, you run the risk of undercooking the pasta. If you don’t wait long enough for the pasta to finish cooking, it could become mushy and fall apart.
Cook Pasta Until Just Done
You may think that you know whether your pasta is done, but you actually don’t. Depending on the type of pasta, it can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to cook through.
To check if your pasta is done, simply taste it. If it tastes tender, but still has some bite, it’s ready. If it’s too soft, you need to continue cooking it until it reaches the desired consistency.
Remember to salt your water before adding the pasta to the pot. Salt helps prevent the pasta from absorbing too much water, which makes it easier to drain later. It also prevents your spaghetti from becoming bland.
Twirl Your Spaghetti On A Fork
When it comes to eating your spaghetti, it’s an Italian tradition to twirl the spaghetti around your fork. This way, you get a nice mix of sauce and pasta as you eat.
This is the biggest reason why not to snap your spaghetti up before you cook it. How can you twirl it up if it’s all broken to pieces?!
There’s one exception for using a spoon: if you’re eating pasta in broth, you may use a spoon. The reason is that angel hair pasta is meant to be eaten in broth, so you’re not supposed to use a fork.
Pasta Dos And Don’ts
Here are some essential dos and don’ts when it comes to cooking pasta. Bear these things in mind the next time you have pasta night!
- Do keep your pasta covered while it’s cooking. A lot of people like to uncover their pasta when they’re making it, because they feel like they can see more of what’s going on. But this isn’t necessary. Covering your pasta keeps the steam inside, which helps ensure that it cooks evenly.
- Do use plenty of olive oil when you’re saucing your pasta. Olive oil adds flavor and richness to your dish.
- Do rinse your pasta well before you put it into the boiling water. Rinsing removes any excess starch that might prevent your pasta from cooking properly.
- Use a large pot that holds at least 7 quarts. The lighter the pot, the better; the water will come to a boil faster than with a heavy stockpot and―also key―return to a boil quickly after you add the pasta.
- Do add salt to your water once it comes to a boil, before adding in your pasta.
- Do season your pasta after cooking.
- Do test the “doneness” of your pasta before bringing it off the heat.
- Do add extra water if you need to. Adding extra water to your pasta pot is a great way to ensure that your pasta stays al dente (Italian for “to the tooth”).
As mentioned above, the pasta absorbs liquid at a rapid rate. But if there isn’t any extra water, your pasta might end up being soggy.
- Don’t add cheese to your pasta while it’s boiling. The cheese will curdle the milk proteins in the pasta and cause it to separate.
- Don’t overdo it when you’re tossing your pasta. Tossing the pasta too vigorously can make it lose its shape.
- Don’t overcook your pasta. Overcooking your pasta will result in a mushy dish. When you add pasta to boiling water, it absorbs liquid quickly. So if you want your pasta to stay firm, you’ll have to keep it in the water for no longer than 12 minutes.
- Don’t let your pasta sit in cold water for too long. Cold pasta won’t absorb as much liquid as hot pasta does. So if you want your pasta to be extra-thick, you’ll need to boil it for a shorter amount of time.
- Don’t break the pasta up to fit it inside the pot. Instead, let the submerged parts soften, and then stir it around to get the rest of the pasta submerged.
- Don’t add salt before your water is boiling. This could end up damaging an aluminum pot if salt is added too soon.
- Don’t add oil to the boiling water in an attempt to stop the pasta from sticking. This doesn’t work, and it also stops the sauce from being able to coat the pasta effectively.
- Don’t discard all the pasta water. Save a cup to add to your sauce before draining the pasta entirely.
- Don’t rinse your pasta after cooking. This removes too much flavorful starch which helps the sauce to stick to the pasta and coat it properly. Rinsing also cools down the pasta too much.
So there you have it! Now you know exactly how to cook pasta authentically just like the Italians do. Now you’ll never have to worry about getting a bowl of mush again, and hopefully, you will NOT break up the pasta into the pot before cooking it!
We hope that you have found the above information about how to cook pasta properly helpful and insightful.