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How To Cook the Perfect Pasta (Linguine)

Updated on August 5, 2013

THE BASICS

Cooking the pasta correctly will provide better texture and consistency. Overcooked pasta becomes mushy and, therefore, absorbs too much sauce causing a not so good effect in your eating experience. Under-cooked pasta is hard and very unpleasant. The texture you want is AL DENTE.

Al dente (pronunciation: "al-DEN-tay") is the Italian word used to describe the pasta, risotto, vegetables or rice that is cooked and has a firm but not hard texture.

Cooking the pasta Al Dente will help the pasta's texture and will also help your digestion.

For this recipe, you'll need:

  • 1 lb. - dry Linguine (Pasta)
  • 1 Pot with lid
  • 1 1/2 gallon Water
  • Salt
  • spoon
  • colander (to remove water excess)


Salt
Salt | Source
Boiling Water
Boiling Water | Source
Linguine (Pasta)
Linguine (Pasta) | Source

THE CHEMISTRY

Before starting to cook, it's good for you to know the Chemistry behind cooking the perfect pasta.


WHY USE BOILING WATER?

Start with plenty of cold or cool filtered water. Large amounts of water will help to prevent the pasta from sticking together, form undesirable clumps and cook unevenly.

When pasta is added to water before it reaches the boiling point, the pasta will get soggy, the starches will begin to dissolve and the noodles will start to break before they are even done. The boiling water helps the pasta to cook from the outside to the inside and prevent the noodles to stick to each other. The temperature in the water drops a little bit when you add the pasta but it will still be in a good temperature to cook the pasta evenly.

Cover the pot with a lid and let the water boil. I suggest to start with a high heat and then lower it.


WHY ADD SALT?

Water is a solvent and salt is a non-volatile solute (that it evaporates and fade away)

Salt makes the natural flavors of the pasta come out and make it taste yummier! Too much salt will not increase the sodium levels; so the water can be "as salty as the sea".

The salt needs to be added to the water AFTER it boils.

The salt dissolves better in hot water and also helps to increase the boiling point of the water. This means that the water will be at a higher temperature when you add the pasta and it will cook evenly.

DO NOT ADD OIL

Ever heard of the phrase "Like oil to water"? This means that the oil floats on the water...they don't mix.

In fact, oil prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta making it to run away and you'll lose all that great flavor from the sauce.

HOW TO MEASURE DRY PASTA

TYPE
UNCOOKED
DRIED
COOKED
elbow macaroni, shells, wheels, penne, bow-ties (farfalle), rigatoni, rotini or ziti
4 ounces
1 cup
2 1/2 cups
linguine, fetuccini, vermicelli, spaghetti or angel hair
4 ounces
1 cup
2 cups
 
 
 
 

Dried pasta doubles its size when cooked. By using a digital scale, pasta will need to be measured by its weight. The serving suggestion for pasta is 4 ounces per person. This means that a pound of cooked pasta can feed 4 people approximately depending whether you're serving the pasta as an appetizer or as a main dish.

Prep time: 8 min
Cook time: 12 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: Serves four (4) people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 gallon Water, cold
  • Salt
  • 1 lb. Pasta, dried

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add water to the pot. Put a lid on and bring to a fast boil.
  2. When the water boils. Add the salt, add the pasta and Stir.
  3. Cook the pasta for 8-12 minutes.
  4. Drain water immediately (you can save some to use as a thickener for the home-made sauce) DO NOT OVER RINSE THE PASTA
  5. Add the desired sauce and serve.
Source

HELPFUL TIPS

  • Do not add salt to the finished product. The salt you added to the boiling water is just fine!
  • Do not put a lid to the pot while the pasta is cooking. If the water is rising just lower the heat a little bit.
  • NEVER mix pasta types. Different pasta types might require different cooking times. If you mix them some pasta will be completely cooked while others will be under-cooked.
  • Add all the pasta at the same time. This will help the pasta to cook evenly.
  • Stir the pasta. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Use a wooden spoon. By stirring it, you will prevent the pasta to clump, stick between them and stick to the bottom of the pot. The first stir after you add the pasta is essential.
  • Cook the pasta less if you are going to make a baked pasta dish. This will help the pasta to not overcook since, after cooking in the boiling water, it will later continue cooking in the oven.
  • Do not over-rinse the pasta. The starch in the pasta makes the perfect sauce thickener and help the sauce stick to the pasta.
  • Do not add too much sauce! Add just the right amount necessary to toss the pasta. Remember that the sauce is to compliment the pasta and add flavor; not to overwhelm.

COOKING PASTA FOR LATER?

If you're cooking pasta to serve it later:

  1. STOP the cooking process - Do not put hot food in the fridge! Stop the cooking process by just using the colander to drain the water and then put the colander with the pasta under cold running water while agitating it so it cools evenly. This should take only a couple of minutes. Then shake the colander to eliminate the excess of water.
  2. Add a little bit of oil - 1-2 teaspoons for each pound of cooked pasta.This will prevent the pasta for sticking. The pasta will absorb the oil so store the sauce in a separate container.
  3. Place in an airtight container - Pasta can be stored 3-5 days in a refrigerator and 1-2 months in a freezer. The pasta needs to be store within two (2) hours of cooking.
  4. Defrost - (if you decided to store it in the refrigerator, jump to step #5) - Defrost the pasta in the sink (use the colander) with running water or in boiling water for 1 minute (depending the amount).
  5. Cook it - You can toss it together with the sauce and the ingredients of your preference and sauté it for a couple of minutes.

ENJOY!

DO YOU USE OIL WHEN COOKING PASTA?

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4.8 stars from 5 ratings of Cooking the Perfect Pasta (Linguine)

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    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 4 years ago from India

      Great recipe. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.