You need only two things — a big pot (24 cups/6 L is ideal) and lots of boiling water. A small pot, or too little water in a big pot, crowds the pasta, cooks it unevenly and makes it gluey. Here's a rule of thumb:
Dry pasta: For each pound (500 g) dry pasta, use 20 cups (5 L) water and 2 tbsp (25 mL) salt. For 12 oz (375 g), reduce the water to 16 cups (4 L) and the salt to 4 tsp (20 mL).
- Bring water, covered, to full rolling boil. Add salt, then pasta, stirring to separate strands or pieces; boil, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes for most popular shapes. Fine strands cook in as little as 3 minutes, while jumbo shells will need about 12 minutes.
- Start timing the cooking from the moment the pasta and water return to boil. Remember to stir pasta occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of pot.
Fresh Pasta: Since fresh pasta doesn't expand as much, it requires less water (16 cups/4 L for each pound/500 g). Fresh pasta cooks quickly, usually in 1 to 3 minutes, so watch it carefully. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of pot.
Doneness: To check if pasta is cooked properly, remove a piece from the pot and let it cool slightly before tasting. It is ready if it is tender but still holds its shape and is al dente, or slightly firm, to the bite.
- Reserving up to 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooking water in case you need to moisten the dish before serving, pour cooked pasta into colander to drain, shaking colander slightly.
- Do not rinse under cold water unless you are using the pasta in a salad or in baked dishes such as lasagna.
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