Chef Wendy

Top Tips For Boiling Perfect Pasta

Pasta is a wonderful store-cupboard ingredient that is ideal for making a quick family dinner. 

It doesn't cost the earth, it cooks quickly, it’s very filling and it provides a good energy boost for sporty children and teens!

Also, most kids seem to love pasta, whether you serve it plain with a lick of olive oil or dish it up with a rich and delicious sauce – something meaty or something creamy, or something packed with nourishing veggies.

Pasta is also incredibly versatile. You can use it to make a variety of cheese-rich, layered bakes (such as lasagne), or you can serve it cold in a tempting pasta salad that is crammed with a variety of interesting ingredients such as fresh veggies, beans, herbs, or cheese, and so on.

All types of dried pasta are quick and easy to cook, provided that you know exactly how to do this. Here are some of our top cooking tips for preparing the perfect pasta, every time:

  • The easiest, smartest way in which to quickly open a plastic packet of spaghetti is to: grasp the packet upright and around its middle with your hand. Next, firmly smack the bottom of the packet against your kitchen counter, and the ‘column’ of spaghetti will burst out of the top of the packet.
  • Boil the pasta in a big pot of rapidly boiling, lightly salted water. An average 500-gram packet of pasta should be boiled in at least two litres of water, and the water should be boiling furiously before you drop in the pasta into the pot.
  • When you heat the water, ensure that you put a lid over the pot and wait until the water is boiling hard and fast before you add the pasta. If the water is not at a rolling boil, and if there isn’t enough water, the pasta might stick together in gluey clumps.
  • Your pasta must be added to the pot of rapidly boiling water all in one go, not a little at a time. Once the pasta has slid into the boiling water,  for the first 5-6 minutes, stir it every two minutes so that it doesn’t stick. Then partially cover the pot with a tilted lid and wait until the timer goes off.
  • Boil the pasta according to the time that is recommended on the packet. Most dried pastas take between nine and ten minutes to boil. Set a timer, and check the pasta for readiness when the timer goes off (see below for hints and tips for checking whether the pasta is ready).
  • There are several ways of checking whether your pasta is ready. The best way is to fish a piece of pasta out of the boiling water (using a fork or a slotted spoon), shake it to remove any liquid, and then taste it. The pasta should be ‘al dente’ - in other words, just tender, but with a slight springiness between your teeth.
  • While the pasta is boiling, put a large colander, sieve or drainer over your sink. When the timer goes off, quickly remove the pot from the heat and tip all of the pasta into the colander. Drain it for exactly one minute, shaking the drainer now and then. Don’t leave it for any longer, or it might dry out and become sticky. When you serve the pasta, or you add your sauce to it, it should look slightly wet and ‘slippery’, with a little of the residual cooking water still clinging to it. 
  • Once your pasta has drained, and it is still hot and ‘slippery’, tip it into a large bowl (or the pan that you cooked the sauce in) and toss it gently so that everything is well combined.
  • If you are making a cold pasta salad, rinse the hot, cooked pasta under a cool running tap for 45 seconds to remove any excess starch. Add the dressing ingredients to the pasta while it is still warm as the heat of the cooked pasta will help to release the flavours in the dressing.
For more interesting recipes and cooking tips such as these, click here.