After a trip to Italy my sophomore year, I fell in love with pasta and started to cook a lot of it myself. A lifelong carb-a-holic, I love pasta because it’s the perfect foundation for a wide array of sauces, proteins and garnishes.
Let’s be honest, pasta is a staple to most college students because it’s easy – boil some noodles, toss it with canned sauce and call it a day. However, whether you’re a novice or a pasta connoisseur, here are some easy to follow tips that will boost your pasta to the next level.
1. Find the “Golden Ratio” of Water Level
Make sure you have enough water in your pot when you boil. The measurement I like is a “low water method” that produces starchy pasta water, where for every pound of pasta (1 box of conventional pasta) you should boil 8 cups of water. Others preach the golden ratio of 1 gallon to 1 pound (16 cups), but you can find your happy medium somewhere in between.
2. Salt Your Water
Boiling is the point where the noodles actually get to gain their own flavor. How much? The Italian tales say your pasta water should taste like the sea, but I’d suggest adding about a tablespoon of salt per box of pasta to the water before you add your pasta will make your dish more flavorful.
Adding salt prior to the water boiling increases the likelihood of rust buildup on your pots, so add it once it’s boiling, moments before you put in your pasta.
3. Save Your Pasta Water
When you drain your noodles, reserve a couple tablespoons of pasta water. The starch from the flour makes this “Italian holy water” the perfect binding agent for your pasta and sauce, especially if you have fresh noodles like these.
4. Shock Your Pasta
Unless you drain your pasta and shock it with cold water, it will continue to cook while it’s sitting around. If you don’t want to shock it, drain the water when it’s a little more al dente than you usually like. If you’re cooking a big batch of pasta to reheat, leave it even more al dente so it’ll retain its texture when reheated
5. Add Olive Oil
If you’re not immediately using your pasta, toss it with a drizzle of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together.
6. Finish in the Pan
If you take away nothing else from this, this tip is absolutely the most important. Heat your sauce in a pan or pot and finish your pasta in it. This allows the pasta to absorb the sauce’s flavors. In order to not overcook your pasta, you should leave it more al dente when you do this and cook it with the magic pasta water from above.
These simple tips are sure to help you step up your pasta game, whether you’re popping open a bottle of Prego or perfecting your puttanesca.
Hungry for more carbs? Try these recipes: