Five Common Pasta Mistakes
It seems like one of the easiest things in the world to cook: You boil some water, throw in some pasta, add a little oil to keep it from sticking and voila! buon appetito. Wrong! Here’s five common pasta mistakes you’ve probably been making.
- Adding oil to the cooking pot
We have no clue as to where this idea came from originally but a lot of people tend to add oil to the cooking water thinking it will stop the pasta from sticking together. What it actually does is make the pasta too slick for any sauce to stay on it properly. If you have used enough water and remember to stir your pasta regularly as it is cooking, it will not stick together. Therefore – no need to add oil.
- Not adding salt to the water
We are constantly reminded that too much salt isn’t good and therefore choose to leave it out where we could, including pasta. This is a mistake. Pasta needs plenty of salt because salt toughens the surface and keeps it from becoming slimy. Add about a teaspoon of salt per each gallon of water. Seems like a lot but every good Italian chef cooks it this way and it really does make a difference. Luckily, the pasta does not absorb salt in the same way that vegetables or potatoes do, so you will not be eating all the salt that you use in the cooking water.
- Not stirring the pasta once it is cooking
When pasta doesn’t stick together it all cooks consistently. So stir that pot otherwise you will have clumped together pasta pieces.
- Overcooking the pasta
Mamma mia! Soft, fall apart pasta is a big no no, especially in Italy. The key to perfect pasta is to keep testing it as you cook it. Once it is slightly firm to the bite – a state the Italians call “al dente” (firm but not crunchy) it’s ready. At the al dente stage, turn off the heat and drain the pasta in a colander. Shake the pasta to get rid of all excess water (be especially careful to do this if they are pasta shapes which catch pockets of hot water) and serve immediately. The pasta continues to cook while it’s draining it in the colander, so when you are testing, remember that what you eat will be cooked for a minute or two longer than what you’re testing in the pan.
- Rinsing the pasta after cooking
If you rinse your pasta immediately after cooking, you’re ruining it. Al dente pasta has just the right amount of starches on the surface to absorb the sauce you will serve with it, which is where pasta gets its entire flavor. If you rinse, you take away these important starches.
Pasta cooked to perfection and will taste delicious with anything you throw on top of it.
Cucina felice! (Happy cooking)