Pasta may seem like the easiest dish to whip up on those hectic weeknights. After all, even college students in dorms can manage to pull together a decent pasta dish! So why is it that sometimes your noodles just seem to turn out better than other times? Why do restaurants always seem to be able to make this dish just a little bit better? What is the secret behind a great pasta dish?
Well, it turns out that it might not be a secret after all. In fact, there are five tricks that, if used consistently, will transform a weeknight dish into a plate worthy of the #foodporn tag.
Mistake: Your Pot Isn't Big Enough
When cooking pasta you can never really have a pot that is too big. In order to make sure that you have enough water for your noodles and that you can cook all the noodles evenly, follow the 1:6 rule. For every one pound of pasta you need 6 liters of water.
Also, make sure your pot is big enough to accommodate all that water and pasta easily. If you think breaking you noodles in half will allow you to use a pot that is just a little bit smaller, stop yourself. This theory will backfire.
If you add too much pasta into a pot that doesn't have enough room, all that starch will cause the water temperature to drop significantly and result in mushy, clumpy pasta.
Mistake: You Don't Salt the Water
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Somehow, on our never-ending quest to reduce the amount of unnecessary sodium in our diets, this step has begun to be considered optional. However, consider this use of salt essential. Maybe you don't need to abide by the old chef adage that pasta water "should be as salty as the sea," but it should have about 1-2 tablespoons in 6 liters.
The reason that salt is essential is twofold. Not only does salt serve to season the noodles perfectly so that they can be paired with even the lightest of sauces, but it also serves to roughen up the noodles and keeps them from getting slimy.
Mistake: You Add the Pasta Too Soon
On those days when you are just so hungry, boiling water fully for pasta can seem to take forever. As tempting as it might be to sneak your noodles in before your salted water has come to a rolling boil, don't.
Adding pasta to water that is not fully hot will reduce the temperature drastically. While the water tries to reach a boil again, the pasta will sit there, immobile, and its starches will begin to combine causing it to become gummy and sticky.
Mistake: You Forgot to Stir
Stirring the pasta is a critical step to keep it from sticking. While many think that oil is the answer to keep noodles as individual tendrils, the real secret is movement.
Oil will cause pasta to become slimy and unable to hold sauce after it has been drained. Stirring, on the other hand, simply keeps things flowing and ensures that you will have un-clumped pasta every time.
Mistake: You Rinse the Pasta After Draining It
I know you're a go-getter and want to make amazing pasta, but please don't add this extra step on your quest for pasta perfection! Rinsing the pasta will wash off all those rough edges that the salt created.
You may think that's no big deal, but if you do, you will end up with flavorless, slimy pasta that no sauce can stick to.