Secrets for cooking perfect pasta

Secrets for cooking perfect pasta

  • 1 July 2020
Pasta is a staple in many peoples kitchens - including the Daily Dish test kitchen. It’s an easy go-to weeknight dinner and a very versatile ingredient.

It might seem like one of the easiest things to cook, but there’s more to cooking pasta than just dumping it into a pot of water and leaving it to do its thing. Here are some essential pasta cooking tips that chefs swear by.

Cook it until al dente


Al dente means “to the tooth” or “to the bite” in Italian. This is the stage where cooked pasta is slightly firm but with a soft bite. Cook your pasta past the al dente stage and you risk ending up with a bowl of mushy pasta. Believe it or not, al dente pasta is actually a bit healthier than overcooked pasta, because it has a lower GI and is digested slower than overcooked pasta.

Salt the water


And not with just a pinch - don’t be shy when adding salt to the water. Some chefs say it should taste like the sea. Salting the cooking water is the only chance you have to season to pasta itself - the salt will absorb into the pasta during cooking.

Use a large pot


Pasta will expand as it absorbs water during cooking. The pot needs to be big enough, and be filled with enough water, to allow the pasta to keep moving around while it cooks. If the pasta doesnt have enough space it will stick together and become mushy.

Don’t add oil to the pot


You may have heard that you should add a little oil to your pasta cooking water - but that can actually do more harm than good! The oil can make the pasta greasy and prevent the sauce from sticking nicely to the pasta once cooked, and we definitely don't want that!

Adding oil to the water won’t stop your pasta from sticking together. To stop it sticking together you should make sure you stir frequently during cooking, and use a large enough pot

Save some of the pasta water


Don’t throw all the water down the sink when your pasta is done cooking - chefs consider this water liquid gold.

Why? The salty, starchy cooking water not only adds flavour to the dish but helps thicken the sauce the sauce and helps it stick to the pasta.

Choose the right pasta shape


Different types of sauces suit different shaped pasta. Pick the right shape depending on what sauce you’re making, because heavy sauces, like bolognese, creamy sauces, and light sauces, for example pesto-based all suit different shaped pastas. You can find a useful guide for what sauce suits what kind of pasta here.

Our favourite pasta recipes


Here are some of our favourite Daily Dish pasta recipes. Cook them at home with these tips and enjoy!

Bacon and Blushed Tomato Penne

Harissa Roasted Cabbage Creamy Penne

Creamy Chicken Fusilli

Classic-ish Linguine

Bacon Basil Spaghetti