American Kitchen Classic Perfect Pasta
- Go Deep: You want enough water in the pot so the pasta doesn't stick to itself and clump. Grab an 8 to 10 quart pot for 1 pound of pasta and fill it about 3/4 full of hot water.
- Add Salt: Turn the heat to high and salt the water heavily. If you are using an 8 quart pot, that's about 3 tbsps of kosher salt. Most of the salt will stay in the water, leaving the pasta perfectly seasoned. Put the lid on the pot so the water boils faster.
- Drop and Stir: When the pasta reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir immediately. This ensures that the pasta will not stick together. There is no need to add olive oil-that doesn't prevent sticking. Just stir occasionally throughout the cooking process. Keep an eye on the pot so it doesn't boil over. You can slightly lower the heat to keep the pot at a rolling boil but not to overflow the pan.
- Test with Your Teeth: Your goal is al dente-pasta that is just tender but still has a bite. Boxed pasta usually reaches al dente about 1 minute before the package instructions say to cook it. The only true way to check is to pull out a piece and bite into it. If the texture feels crunchy, continue to allow the pasta to boil. Taste again after a minute or so.
- Finish It: Pasta should never wait in the sink in a colander, it will go gummy. For a fast finish, place your colander in the sink while the pasta cooks and have your sauce ready and waiting. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Dump the drained pasta back into the pot. Add the sauce and the reserved pasta water. The starches in the pasta water help the sauce to cling to the pasta, creating a creamier, more flavorful dish. Stir well before serving.