Versatile, easy to make pasta, cooked perfectly al dente with step-by-step picture book directions from Bruce Tretter.
There’s so much to love about pasta! Pasta goes with just about anything. It’s inexpensive. It’s a kid favorite. And it’s incredibly quick and easy to cook without the need for a bathtub of water as many pasta package directions will suggest. Here are a few quick tips followed by step-by-step picture book directions that show how to cook any shape of pasta.
This recipe shows how to cook pasta to “al dente” doneness, an Italian term meaning “to the teeth” or pasta that is still slightly firm when chewed, not soft and mushy.
Cooking instructions on pasta packages usually call for using big pot filled with water to cook the pasta, but that’s not necessary. Heating a huge pot of water takes a lot of time and energy. All you really need is a medium sized (3-4 quart) pot filled 2/3 – 3/4 full with water to cook 1 pound of pasta.
Serving Size: The USDA recommended serving size for pasta is 1 ounce of dry pasta per person. 1 ounce of dry pasta yields 1/2 -3/4 cup cooked pasta depending on the shape of that pasta (spaghetti, linguine, bow tie, etc.). As a rule of thumb, I’d plan 1 ounce of dry pasta per person as a side dish or 2 ounces of dry pasta as a main dish. To get a visual idea of what 1 or 2 ounces of dry pasta looks like as well as how much cooked pasta 1 ounce of dry pasta yields see the comparison of thin spaghetti and bow tie pasta below. (I usually cook more pasta than I’ll need for a specific meal and store the leftover pasta in the refrigerator as shown in step 8.)
Cooking Time: 10-20 minutes, including time to bring water to a boil, depending on pasta type
(for 4 or more people)
1/2 Pound of Pasta
1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Salt (optional – adds flavor to pasta)
Medium (3-4 quart) Pot
Colander or Strainer
1. Fill a medium sized pot 2/3 – 3/4 full with cold tap water.
Put the pot on the stove, and turn on the burner to HIGH heat.
2. Let the water come to a big bubble, rapid boil as shown in the full boil photo below, not just a small bubble “soda fizz” boil shown in the NOT a full boil photo below, to help ensure the pasta cooks properly to desired doneness.
3. When the water comes to a full boil, add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (optional but adds flavor to pasta) and …
… 1/2 pound of pasta.
4. Set a timer for the pasta cooking time suggested in the cooking directions on the pasta package according to desired doneness. NOTE: As pasta will keep absorbing moisture even after cooking, I usually set the timer for either the pasta package suggested “al dente” (meaning, “still firm when chewed”) cooking time or 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time if “al dente” is not mentioned in the printed pasta cooking directions.
5. Stir the pasta just as it starts to cook to ensure that the pasta pieces don’t stick together or to the bottom of the pot. Then …
… let the water return to a full boil, and …
…turn the burner heat down to MEDIUM-HIGH to allow a gentle boil and keep the hot water from spilling over the pot.
6. While the pasta cooks, put a colander or strainer in the sink.
7. When the timer sounds, give the pasta a quick stir, and …
… carefully pour the cooked pasta into the colander or strainer in the sink WITHOUT rinsing with cold water and …
… serve warm.
8. Store leftover pasta either in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or covered container and …
…refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter