Pasta Tips and Hints and other bits of know-how

I’ve been meaning to post these for ages.

  • The better pastas are made with durum wheat, which results in more gluten, and results in a sturdier (and some would say more flavorful) pasta.
  • Never turn down fresh pasta.
  • Avoid store-bought dried pastas if the package contains excessive crumbling, or the pasta looks dusty.
  • Serving Size rules of thumb for dried pastas? Two ounces for a side dish, four ounces for a main course serving.
  • Serving Size rules of thumb for fresh pastas? Three ounces for a side dish, five for a main course (Water weight is the cause of the discrepancy).
  • Boil four quarts of water per pound of pasta.
  • Salt should be added to the water after it starts boiling. One teaspoon (give or take) per quart of water boiled.
  • Adding oil does not provide much benefit to boiling water nor to keeping noodles unstuck.
  • Have the water boiling rapidly before adding the pasta.
  • One does not need to break spaghetti noodles (or other long pasta) in order to get them into the water. Simply use tongs or stir with a wooden spoon after being in the water for about twenty seconds.
  • Pasta still cooks after being pulled from the boiling water, so it’s best to pull it out if it feels al dente when you take a test bite.
  • Al dente means tender, but still firm. But if you still hear or feel a snap when you take a bite of the pasta, it’s not quite done.
  • Drain the water from the pasta as much as possible before topping with your sauce/oil of choice.
  • Have the sauce prepared before the pasta is done so that it can be applied immediately to the pasta.
  • Pasta should be coated with sauce, not be swimming in it.
  • Quick rule of thumb for saucing your pasta: Long, thin noodles get the smoother sauces. Chunkier sauces are applied to the smaller, sturdier pastas. YMMV.
  • If you overcook your pasta, a rinse in tepid water may reduce its stickiness.
  • After you drain the pasta, then you oil it (rather than adding oil to the boiling water, then serve.
  • Serving pasta in bowls, rather than plates, will keep the pasta warmer for a longer period of time.
  • Leftover pasta is great in a frittata.

As always, you can post your own tips in the comments.