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It’s funny how even the most adept home cooks can produce a delicious lasagna, a five star roast and even a sumptuous chocolate cake but can still struggle with the basics. From making toast, boiling eggs and cooking chips to cooking an omelette and pasta sometimes the simplest things to do can actually be the trickiest. The problem with pasta is that there are so many ways to cook it, dried and fresh differ, should you add some oil? Is the cold water rinse necessary? When is pasta actually done? We’ll answer all these questions and more in our fantastic, fool-proof guide to the store cupboard staple everyone loves.

The Bigger The Better

Right off the bat, there’s room for error by simply choosing the wrong cookware in which to make your pasta. You’ll want something big, we mean really big, such as what you’d use to cook a large batch of spaghetti mince in or a dozen or so boiled potatoes. Now’s not the time to dig out the cute, covered saucepan because pasta is a selfish food it needs plenty of space to move around. Smaller pots will force the pasta spirals closer together in a tight mass which heightens the chances only the ones on the outside will be cooked through. It may seem quicker, and more efficient to use less water but pasta needs all the water because only pasta which is below the water level will be cooked, anything like spaghetti strands that are poking out the top will remain dry and brittle.

Salt, Season And Stir

Don’t be afraid to add salt to pasta as it’ll help to bring out the starchy flavor. For a large batch, a tablespoon will be plenty, of course, if you’re not a fan of salt lower the amount then wait until the water is properly boiling. A good way to check is to see if visible bubbles are rising to the surface, anything less than full on steam, bubbles and foam and your pasta isn’t going to cook period. Whatever you do don’t leave the pot unattended. To begin with, it’s dangerous and also the pasta needs to be stirred constantly which will keep it from clumping together. Unlike dried pasta freshly packed pasta can cook in a matter of two or three minutes so don’t leave it longer thinking they’re the same as they aren’t.

Perform A Taste Test

Once the pasta has cooked for a couple of minutes, it’s time to try some so grab a fork and pop a piece in your mouth. You’re looking for a soft, not mushy texture that is still fairly chewy and has a springy feel to it. The Italians even have a term for properly cooked pasta it’s al dente and means ’to the tooth’ i.e. there should be a little bite to it. Having established the pasta is ready remove from the heat, drain it into a colander giving it a little toss at the same time and then serve with a delicious tomato and basil, pesto, or arrabiata sauce.

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