Basic hints for cooking pasta

Basic hints for cooking pasta the italian way.

Let’s start!  One of the best known italian food in the world is “pasta”.  With the word “pasta” we identify dozen and dozen different kind of pasta, they may differ for shapes, cooking times and what it’s made of (durum wheat – grano duro – flour is the most common).

But the rules to cook pasta is more or less always the same.  You will need a large and tall cylindrical pot, water, cooking salt and obviously the pasta you want to cook.

Spaghetti pasta

I will not write about the sauce used to complete the pasta dish here.  I would just like to explain how pasta should be cooked in the right way.


The 1-10-100 rule

There is a rule we use, called 1-10-100.  It means that for every 100g (3.5oz) of pasta you need 10g (0.35oz) of cooking salt and 1lt (0.22gal) of water.  Obviously these can not be “fixed” numbers, it will depend on the shape and dimension of the pasta used and the cooking time.

For example if you want to cook 100g of spaghetti you will probably need more than just 1lt of water (probably even 2lt).  If the cooking time is longer than the average you will need to use a little less salt (water will evaporate a little if the cooking time is longer and the percentage of salt in the water will become higher).  If the kind of pasta is very large (paccheri, fusilloni are just a couple of example) you may need a little more water 1,1-1,2lt instead of 1lt.

Also, according to latest health reccomandation some chefs are suggesting to reduce the salt quantity for each litre of water to 6-7g (0.20-0.25oz for 0.22gal).

So it’s better to keep the 1-10-100 rule as a hint from where you should start, and then fine tune depending on your needs.

Time to cook!

Some people will tell you to use a little of oil in the water to avoid that pasta will stick.  This is not needed and actually it may create some problems with the sauce not being able to stick to the pasta due to the fact that the added oil create a film on each piece  that will not allow the sauce to combine.

So, put the water in the pot and bring it to boil.  Right the moment it starts to boil, add the salt and the pasta.  Stir well for a few seconds.  Then check every now and then it does not stick and stir again from time to time.

What is the right quantity of pasta?  The normal serving quantity for each person is usually around 80g (2.82oz) for the dried pasta (the whole wheat flour one). For the fresh made pasta (the one made with eggs or “pasta all’uovo) is around 60g (2.12oz) .

The right timing

Read carefully the cooking time on the package!  That is the time you need to cook to get the pasta cooked “al dente” (it’s almost cruncy to your teeth).  Try not to overcook it.  Do not exceed the cooking time on the package, otherwise you will end up with a pasta “scotta” (ovecooked).

Pasta “scotta” is not the way we eat pasta in Italy, and it may give you some troubles.  First of all it’s harder to digest.  Second, but probably more important, you need to complete the cooking process with the sauce. Usually  this means you will have to cook it a little more in the sauce.  This will result in a very overcooked pasta that will taste like “colla” (glue).

So please, stick to the cooking time on the packaging and do not exceed it.

Some links (in italian) about it.

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