Chef Dad's pasta tips

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

Chef Dad's Tips on "How to Boil Pasta"

1. Use a large pot that holds at least 1 1/2 gallons of water. If you cook a lot of pasta in your house, the best pasta pots are the two-part units with a removable strainer.

2. Use good quality water because bad-tasting water makes bad-tasting pasta.

3. Start heating the water well in advance. It can take certain stoves up to 25 minutes or so before your water comes to a boil. Use a lid until you put the pasta in. You can always lower the temp and keep covered until you are ready to cook the pasta. If your tap water tastes good, use the hot water from there to save 10 minutes of heating time.

4. Add 2 tablespoons of salt (Kosher or sea salt preferably) per gallon of water.

5. Do not add pasta until your water is boiling vigorously.

6. Make sure your sauce and other pairings are ready to serve before the pasta is done. Your pasta should always be the last thing cooked, otherwise it clumps up and becomes a mess to work with.

7. Add your pasta, and use a large wooden spoon to stir frequently for the first two minutes to keep the noodles from sticking together. Stir it once every few minutes after that. Set your timer for one minute less than the cooking instructions on the box call for.

8. When your timer goes off, remove a piece of pasta and taste it every minute or so until it's cooked to your liking.

9. Drain pasta and let sit for about 45 seconds to one minute. NEVER rinse off your pasta with water!  This removes the starch that holds onto your sauce.

10. Use a pair of tongs to put the pasta on the plate. Add sauce and serve immediately. Sprinkling a little grated cheese and chopped parsley adds flavor and a nice appearance to your dish.

11. If you're serving the pasta with a cream sauce, use a large pan to combine the two together before serving instead of just pouring the sauce on top.

Reheating pasta:

If you ever want to precook cook your pasta to use within the next week, boil it for two minutes less than the box instructions call for. Drain it, let it cool for a few minutes, then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over it then toss. Put desired amount(s) of each serving you want for later in air-tight zipper bags, then put it in the fridge. When it comes time to eat, drop the precooked pasta in boiling water (no salt necessary this time) for two minutes, then drain and serve.

Pasta pairings:

Thinner pastas like angel hair are best used with lighter sauces such as pesto, olive oil or butter.  Thicker pastas such as Fettuccine and Penne work well with heavier sauces like a meat- or cream-based one. Very simply put, thin pasta/light sauce vs. thick pasta/heavy sauce.