Although cooking pasta is not rocket science, there are a few guidelines you can follow to help you cook it perfectly every time.
1. To begin with, the pan in which the pasta is cooked needs to be a big one, preferably stainless steel. The pasta needs plenty of room to move around in the water while cooking. One can also buy a stainless steel pasta cooking pot with its own in-built draining pot. If you cook pasta a lot, it is well worth investing in one of these special pots. Otherwise use the largest pot you have and a large stainless steel strainer.
2. All types of pasta need a large quantity of water, about 5 litres for every 500 g of pasta. If you are cooking less than 500 g, use at least 3 litres of water. Pasta will stick together as it cooks, so make sure there is the required quantity of water in the pot.
3. First bring the water to a fast rolling boil. When the water is boiling, add enough salt (1 tbsp for every 500 g). Then follow with the pasta.
4. Tip in the pasta all at once so that it cooks evenly.
5. The pasta should be completely submerged in the water.
6. Reduce the heat slightly and let the water boil gently for the recommended cooking time.
7. Stir the pasta frequently while cooking to prevent the pasta shapes or strands from sticking together.
8. Drain carefully and thoroughly. Shake the draining pan or strainer vigorously and stir the pasta well so any water trapped in the pasta shapes can drain out as quickly as possible.
9. Save a few tablespoons of the water the pasta has cooked in, in case the pasta gets dry and needs to be moistened. Alternatively you can cover the pasta with a damp tea/ kitchen towel to retain moisture.
10. The cooking time for pasta can vary greatly depending on type and manufacturer, so always check the packet instructions before you start.
11. There is an innovative time-saving technique of cooking pasta known as ‘One pot pasta’. These pasta dishes are much simpler to make, where all of the ingredients get thrown into one pot, and as the pasta simmers, the sauce reduces to coat it perfectly. You don’t need to cook pasta separately and sauce separately, thus no extra utensils required. This can be any busy mom’s go-to recipe while her family craves for some pasta delight!
12. Here a simple one pot pasta recipe: Put the milk and pasta in a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to each other, then cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta and the milk has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add freshly grated cheese, butter, mustard, nutmeg and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, chilli flakes, chopped basil, and stir until smooth, thick and creamy. The dish will thicken as it cools; thin it out with a little hot water if desired. Serve hot!