How to Cook Pasta like an Italian

How to Cook Pasta


Cooking pasta is as easy as boiling water, right?! As it turns out, there's a bit more to it than what your mom or grandmother might have told you. If you're wondering, "Why does pasta in restaurants always taste better than what I make at home?" Read on for easy tricks to make restaurant-quality pasta in your kitchen. 

How Much Water Should I Use?  - Use at least 1 gallon of water per pound of pasta.

Use a large pasta or stock pot so there's plenty of room for the water to circulate around the pasta. The rule is to use twice the amount of water as pasta, minimum. More water is better. The starchier water becomes, the harder it is for the pasta to absorb water.

Don’t add oil to the water, it does nothing to help pasta from sticking together. Oil doesn’t even touch the pasta because it floats on top of the water. To help prevent pasta from sticking together, give it a gentle stir once or twice within the first two minutes of boiling. This is when the pasta begins to release starches.

Should I put salt in the pasta water? Yes!
Professional chefs salt the water until it is salty to taste, like sea water. For the home chef, feel free to adjust that to your own taste preferences. The longer pasta takes to cook, the less salt you should use. Remember, not all of the salt used is absorbed by the pasta. 

For regular pasta, cooking for 8-12 minutes, use:

  • 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt to 1 gallon of water
  • 3 Tbsp. table or fine salt to 1 gallon of water

What does Al Dente mean?
Follow package directions for cooking times. Taste test your pasta once it has reached the minimum cooking time (be careful to let it cool off a bit first.) Al dente pasta should be firm in the center, but definitely not crunchy. 

Finishing Touches

  • Remove pasta from heat and use a colander to drain pasta, reserving 2% of the pasta water. The reserved starchy water acts great as a sauce thickener and blends perfectly with oil. 
  • Don't rinse the pasta or you'll lose some of the flavor and the starch that holds sauces.
  • Finish with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking together.
  • For a simple meal, mix cooked pasta with reserved pasta water and a bit of olive oil. Garnish with freshly cracked pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Buon Appetito!

Try it on a new pasta recipe! Browse all Pasta Recipes


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