How to Cook Pasta

Two Methods:Basic Pasta SauceAdditional Pasta Sauce Recipes

Whether you’re a starving college student or a connoisseur of fine foods, pasta has something to offer. It’s affordable, easy to master, and can be made in endless combinations. To cook pasta, follow these instructions; to turn it into a meal, add one of the sauce recipes below.


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    Choose which pasta you want to cook. Try to pick one that suits the sauce well. It's best to use pasta that is a brand from Italy and is made of 100% durum wheat semolina.
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    Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water. This will ensure that the water doesn't spill when it's boiling. Don’t under-fill the pot; this will make the pasta sticky. There should be a generous water-to-pasta ratio. To reduce your wait time, add hot water.
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    Turn the knob on the stove to high.
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    Add salt if desired. For a large pot of water, 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt should be sufficient.
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    Wait for the water to boil.
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    Add pasta to the water and stir with a long spoon. Take care that the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom, especially when you first add it.
    • Since it can be hard to estimate just how much pasta you need, read the package for serving suggestions. If there aren’t any, read the Nutrition Facts for the number of servings per container and divvy up the dry noodles accordingly. If you’re cooking for two, a full package of pasta can usually make a full meal with leftovers.
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    Turn down the stove slightly, continue to boil the pasta, and stir every so often to prevent sticking. Do not cover the pot; traditional Italian pasta is cooked without a lid.
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    When it's been boiling for about 8-10 minutes (check the package for suggested cooking time), take a piece of the pasta out and allow it to cool.
    • Alternatively, under-cook the pasta by 2-3 minutes (the outsides should be cooked while the centers should be hard), then turn off the stove, set the pot on another (cool) burner, and cover for 10-15 minutes. This will slow-cook the centers of the pasta, making them al dente instead of soggy.
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    Bite into the pasta. If it's too hard to bite or if you see white in the center, it needs to cook a little longer. When it's cooked all the way through but still firm, it's ready. This is referred to as al dente (“to the tooth”) in Italian.
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    Turn off the stove and empty the entire pot of pasta into a strainer. Tilt the pot away from yourself so you don’t get a face full of steam, which is even hotter than the boiling water.
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    Shake out the excess water and then pour the pasta back into the pot. Be sure not to put the pot back onto the hot part of the stove, which can burn the bare pasta.
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    Add a tablespoon of olive oil and toss (optional). While this will keep the noodles from sticking, it can also create a barrier between the noodle and the sauce you add, making the results less flavorful.
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    Cover with your favorite sauce and shake it (inside the hot pot). See several recipes below for ideas.
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    Add grated parmesan cheese, fresh parsley or basil leaves, or other garnishes as desired.

Method 1
Basic Pasta Sauce

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    Put a tall saucepan on medium heat.
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    Test the heat by placing your hand several inches above the pan. When you can feel the heat radiating, it’s hot enough to use.
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    Cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer of olive oil.
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    Sprinkle dried herbs in the oil. Adding a pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning will infuse the oil with the herb essence. Allow it to sit for about 30 seconds depending on the temperature of the oil; the flakes will brown, but don’t allow them to smoke or turn black.
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    Add half a diced yellow onion and stir.
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    After 1-2 minutes, add several cloves of diced garlic. Since the garlic pieces are smaller than the onion, adding them later will prevent them from burning.
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    When onions are translucent, pour 1 large can of crushed tomato or 2 regular cans into a tall saucepan.
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    Add salt, sugar (optional), black pepper, Italian seasoning, and oregano to taste.
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    Allow the tomatoes to get hot, then let the sauce simmer for approximately 15 minutes..

Method 2
Additional Pasta Sauce Recipes

  • White and Red Pasta Sauce
  • Beef Pasta Sauce
  • Oregano and Thyme Pasta Sauce
  • Mozzarella Sauce
  • Pasta Pasqualina Sauce
  • Red-Wine Sauce
  • Mushroom Pasta Sauce
  • Eggplant Pasta Sauce
  • Orange and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
  • Red Pasta Sauce
  • Pasta Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes


  • Add salt to the boiling water. Salt enhances the pasta flavor and allows the sauce flavor to "blend" better.
  • Different pastas cook for varying times. Thin linguine, for example, cooks much faster than rigatoni.
  • When your pasta is ready, the outer edges will begin to lighten in color.
  • Some people prefer to rinse their pasta in the colander to wash away the starches. Do not do this! In addition to the sauce adhering better because of the starch, if you rinse it, you will be cooling the pasta before you add the sauce. Instead, drain the pasta, add it back into the pot you cooked it, turn on the heat and add the sauce, stirring until well-mixed and hot. The pasta will be thoroughly coated by the sauce and the pasta will stay hot when you serve it.
  • Use plenty of water. The most common cause of "sticky" pasta is cooking with too little water. Use at least 4 quarts of water for each pound of pasta (4 liters for each one-half kilogram). No oil or other additives are required.
  • If you make spaghetti and they are not submerged at beginning, do not break them. Wait 30 seconds and gently use your fork to bend them and submerge them.
  • Italians adopt a "leave it alone" or "don't mess with it" policy when cooking pasta. Don't agitate or stir it too much. This goes for the sauce as well.
  • Add some of the pasta water to your sauce. If you're making your own sauce, add a bit of the water used to cook the pasta if you need to adjust its thickness. The dissolved starches will thicken and enrich its texture. Note that the "right" amount varies according to recipe, batch size, and preference.
  • Benefits of spaghetti: it is easy to make, time efficient, (can be) healthy, and can be made with any kind of vegetables, sauce, noodles, and source of protein, whether it be ground beef, ground chicken, tofu, or ground pork.
  • You don't have to eat plain old pasta and sauce! Add your own spices to it, whether it's meatballs or herbs.


  • The old wives tale that if pasta sticks to the ceiling, it's done cooking, just isn't true. A barely-cooked piece of pasta can still stick to your ceiling, and even this depends on what kind of material your ceiling is made out of.
  • When emptying the pasta into the boiling water, do it slowly so the hot water doesn't splash out of the pot and burn you.
  • If the bubbles look like they're about to spill out of the pot, lower the heat to medium-high. Never add anything to reduce this. This may be prevented by shaking.
  • If you happen to get scalded by the water, put the burned area under cool water for at least 10 minutes. Then get the burn(s) covered in an ice-pack.

Article Info

Categories: Pasta and Noodles