How to Cook Pasta Al Dente: Best Recipe for Perfect Results
It’s not only the Italians who love pasta—lots of people all over the world refer to this dish as their Number 1 comfort food. However, for novices in the kitchen, making perfectly cooked pasta noodles can be a challenge. Want to be a quick expert on cooking the stuff? Then it’s best that you take up all of these tips on how to cook pasta al dente.
But First, the Benefits
Al dente pasta is not overcooked—it is firmer and has overall better taste and mouthfeel. Now, there is more than just taste and texture when it comes to perfectly prepared pasta. Al dente pasta is also great for your health.
Pasta that has been cooked al dente is still capable of taking in more liquids over the course of the digestive process, thus the food gets digested easily. Overcooked pasta meanwhile has taken in its full amount of liquids already. Thus, it lies on your gut heavily, making you feel lethargic and very full.
In addition, al dente pasta also features a lower glycemic index compared to overcooked ones thus it will not drastically impact your blood sugar rate. First-rate pasta products made from whole grain or solid durum wheat semolina are very beneficial to the body due to their low glycemic indices. This means that this type of pasta provides a gradual yet steady amount of energy while at the same time, allows blood sugar levels to remain stable. You won’t get hungry easily and refrain from eating in between meals.
Thusly, al dente pasta is recommended for those with diabetes and people who want to keep their weight in check.
Tips on Cooking the Perfect Pasta
We continue now with the al dente pasta cooking tips. Keep these recommendations in mind for healthier, more delicious chow times.
- Begin with loads of water and a big pot
Put the big pot on the stovetop and pour lots of cold water on it, around 4 quarts for every pound of noodles. The pasta should be completely soaked in H2O and must be free to move about. All that water will prevent the strands from sticking to each other over the course of cooking.
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In case you are cooking the pasta in a pot and strainer, do fill it with more water so the pasta can fully swim in the water.
Don’t break pasta strands. If the strands do not fit, then you should use a bigger pot to cook the pasta in.
- Let it boil away
So, what are the steps on how to boil pasta al dente? You have to guarantee that the water will be boiling hot before you put the noodles in. If the water is not boiling fully, the cooking process will take a bit more time and this leads to inconsistent pasta texture. For a faster boiling process, use a lid that fits the pot snugly.
- Do not scrimp on the salt
As soon as the water is at a boil, toss a tablespoon of salt on it. Always add salt once the water is at its boiling point or else it will only sink to the bottom of the pot. The salt is responsible for increasing water temperature apart from giving pasta some flavor. All that sodium though is not that much of a problem since it gets drawn off after the cooking.
- Just save that drop of olive oil on other dishes
Maybe you’ve heard from friends or family about adding oil on the pasta water to prevent strands from sticking. But the truth is, the oil will only remain on top of the water thus it will not be able to do its supposed function. As soon as the pasta is removed, the oil gets on the strands and it will prevent the sauce from sticking to it completely.
- Remember to stir that pasta
This one is especially crucial since the strands will begin to soften and become more pliable as soon as it’s soaked in the boiling water. Stir the stuff inside the pot so all noodles will remain under the water and be able to move about freely. Stir the noodles every few minutes over the course of cooking so the strands won’t stick on the pot or its bottom.
- Assess its doneness a few minutes before it’s cooked
Most pasta products come with a cooking time to show users how long to cook pasta al dente. However, these cooking times differ depending on the pasta and the brand. Check out the doneness before the pasta is finished cooking. Take one noodle out and bite it. Pasta that’s perfectly cooked has a nice, yielding bounce to it—it should be soft but should still retain some crunch.
- Do not rinse off the pasta
Now that you have mastered al dente pasta cooking time, it is time to know if it’s really proper to give those strands a rinse before tossing in the sauce. When draining the noodles, please refrain from rinsing it. The starch in the water actually helps the noodles and sauce stick well. And save some of that starchy water for the sauce if you like.
There are exceptions though; pasta used in cold salads, stuffed pastas and lasagna all require a rinse under cool water.
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- Make smoother sauces with a bit of pasta water
Do you want to make an al dente pasta sauce that’s even better? Sometimes it helps to preserve some of that pasta water so it can be used on the sauce. The added starch helps in making pasta sauce smoother in texture. This is actually an old Italian trick; after mixing the sauce and pasta in the pot, splash a bit of the pasta water on it for a richer velvety texture.
Steer clear of clumpy, soggy and sticky pasta by following the tips mentioned. Pair the pasta with the type of sauce you love, whether it’s plain old tomato, pesto or a simple cacio e pepe and enjoy!