HOW TO COOK PERFECT PASTA EVERY TIME
- Always cook pasta in a large saucepan.
- To cook 500g pasta, pour about 3 litres of water into a large pot and add 15ml (1 tablespoon) salt.
- Cover the pot and bring the water to a rapid boil.
- Add the pasta, all at once, and stir until the water returns to the boil.
- Cook the pasta, uncovered, for 8 to 15 minutes, stirring during the cooking time – if you don’t it will stick. The cooking period will depend on the shape and size of the pasta – refer to your pasta for a guide.
- The pasta must be cooked in an open pot at all times.
- To test if the pasta is cooked, carefully remove a piece from the boiling water.
- Bite into the pasta to see if it is cooked through. If there is still a small white spot in the centre of the pasta, it is not ready.
- Pasta must be firm to the bite and not soft or soggy. When it is perfectly cooked, it is called ‘al dente’, which means ‘firm to the bite’.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it immediately using a sieve or colander.
- Serve immediately.
How to cook pasta in a crock pot
Here are my top tips for cooking pasta in a crock pot.
Remember that every recipe and pasta is different, so not every cook time can apply to each type of pasta!
- Add pasta in raw (no need to cook at all or rinse it)
- Follow recipe specific instructions for optimal pasta texture
- Know your types of pasta – which ones cook fast, which ones can sustain a longer cook time (for example, ziti can handle longer cook time than macaroni noodles)
- Check pasta often for doneness towards the end of cook time to avoid mushiness
- Keep experimenting! Cooking pasta in the crock pot can save so much time!
How to Cook Pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. There should be plenty of room for pasta to circulate. Sometimes fresh pasta is cooked in batches to avoid crowding the pot. Use a lid to bring to a boil more quickly.
- Salt the water. Pasta cooked in unsalted water will never taste right — it absorbs the salt as it cooks. Pasta cooking water should be just slightly less salty than the sea. (If you are using salty ingredients, such as salted anchovies or capers in the sauce, keep that in mind for balance.) Take off the lid and add a handful of coarse sea salt to the boiling water. This may look like a lot, but most of the salt washes away when you drain the pasta.
- After adding the salt, wait for the water to return to a boil, then add the pasta. As soon as you add the pasta, stir with a wooden spoon or long-handled fork. Do not break long pasta to fit in the pot. Simply wait a moment for the pasta immersed in the water to soften, then push the remainder of the pasta into the water. Stir frequently while the pasta is cooking. Across Italy, cooks adding pasta to the water announce, “Butto giù!” – I’m throwing in! – which indicates a rough ten-minute countdown until the meal will be served.
- Cook pasta al dente. Fresh pasta is usually ready when it floats to the surface of the cooking water. Dried semolina pasta has a cooking time on the package. Start testing 1 to 2 minutes before the cooking time provided. There is no cure for overcooked pasta. To test dried semolina pasta, fish out one piece with a skimmer or fork and take a bite. If the center is brittle and has a chalky white color, it’s not ready. When it’s al dente, there will be slight resistance “to the tooth,” but nothing hard, and the color will be mostly uniform throughout with just a slightly lighter color in the center. Like Riccoli d’Oro (you know her as Goldilocks), you’re looking for something just right – not overcooked and not undercooked.
- Drain the pasta. Either place a colander in the sink and pour the pasta and water into the colander or use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove the pasta from the pot. Transfer the pasta to a skillet or serving bowl. Often you will reserve some of the cooking water. Always turn off the burner as you remove the pot – never leave pasta sitting in its cooking water off the heat.
- Serve immediately. Pasta waits for no one.
One tip we’d add? Don’t forget the wine.
Fusilli con Speck e Radicchio Recipe
“This is the perfect dish to throw together when unexpected guests knock at your door. It can be made with fresh egg pasta for a somewhat more substantial dish, and it would be fabulous with fresh garganelli, a quill-shaped egg pasta. You can also serve grated Grana Padano cheese on the side if you like. Any variety of radicchio will work here. When radicchio cooks, it loses much of its bitterness and turns slightly sweet, a flavor that plays off the smokiness of the speck very well. Tip: Purchase the speck for this dish in a single slab and then cut it into cubes at home.”
- 1 pound fusilli
- 2 oz speck
- .75 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small head radicchio
- 1 shallot
- Cooking water
- Coarse sea salt for pasta
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Cut the radicchio into ribbons. Chop the speck into .25-inch cubes. Mince the shallot.
- In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta comfortably, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and speck and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the radicchio and stir to combine. Season lightly with fine sea salt. (Remember that the speck is somewhat salty.) Turn the heat to low and cook, covered, until the radicchio is very wilted and has turned dark purple, about 7 minutes. (If the radicchio starts to stick to the pan before it is cooked, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water.) Add the cream to the pan, stir, and cook until just slightly reduced and clinging to the radicchio, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, when the water in the large pot boils, add coarse salt and then add the fusilli. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the pasta is al dente.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain in a colander and then transfer to the pan with the sauce. Toss over medium heat until the pasta is coated in sauce. Season with a generous amount of fresh pepper and serve immediately.
How to Cook Pasta and Fusilli con Speck e Radicchio and images reprinted with permission from Eataly: All About Pasta: A Complete Guide by Natalie Danford. Rizzoli, 2018.
Spaghetti Squash Serving Suggestions:
Spaghetti squash is a blank slate, just like normal spaghetti! You can try it with an easy turkey bolognese to start, but here are some other fun options:
Storing spaghetti squash: Cooked spaghetti squash will keep for about a week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (for oven roasting methods)
- salt and pepper (for oven roasting methods)
To Cook in Rings in Oven:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Scrub squash clean and CAREFULLY cut into 1-inch rings.
- Scrape out seeds
- Spray or rub squash rings with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly before using a fork or your hands to form spaghetti squash strands.
To Cook Whole In Oven:
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub the squash clean. Next, use a knife to prick holes all over the squash.
- Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400°F until tender (poke with a knife to test) — about an hour, depending on how large of a squash you have. Turn the squash over halfway through cooking to ensure even cooking.
- When tender, let cool enough to handle. Cut in half – if you cut it lengthwise (from stem to end), you’ll have shorter spaghetti strands. If you cut it right down the middle (between the stem and the end), you’ll have longer strands. Remove seeds. Use a fork to separate the squash into strands.
To Cook Cut in Half In Oven:
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub the squash clean.
- Cut in half – if you cut it lengthwise (from stem to end), you’ll have shorter spaghetti strands. If you cut it right down the middle (between the stem and the end), you’ll have longer strands. Scoop out the seeds.
- Drizzle inside lightly with olive oil (use a brush or your hands to evenly coat) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast at 400°F until tender (poke with a knife to test) — about an hour, depending on how large of a squash you have.
- When tender, let cool enough to handle. Use a fork to separate the squash into strands.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Instant Pot
- Scrub squash clean and carefully pierce all over with knife (10-15 cuts, 1/2-inch to 1-inch in size).
- Place steamer basket in the bottom of the pressure cooker and add 1 cup water. Place squash in/on steamer basket.
- Secure lid, turn valve to seal, and set for 20 minutes on high pressure. When timer goes off, quick release pressure by turning the valve to “vent.”
- Carefully remove squash and let cool enough to handle. Cut in half – if you cut it lengthwise (from stem to end), you’ll have shorter spaghetti strands. If you cut it right down the middle (between the stem and the end), you’ll have longer strands. Remove seeds. Use a fork to separate the squash into strands.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Slow Cooker
- Scrub squash clean and carefully pierce all over with a knife (10-15 cuts, 1/2-inch to 1-inch in size).
- Place squash in slow cooker and place the cover on. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours or until easily pierced with a knife.
- Carefully remove squash and let cool slightly. Cut in half – if you cut it lengthwise (from stem to end), you’ll have shorter spaghetti strands. If you cut it right down the middle (between the stem and the end), you’ll have longer strands. Remove seeds.
- Use a fork to separate the squash into strands.
- Cooking and prep times will vary depending on which cooking method is used.
- Cooked spaghetti squash will keep for about a week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Serving Size: Approximately 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Nutrition details calculated without olive oil.
Yield: 1 spaghetti squash, Serving Size: 1 cup
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 42 Calories
- Sodium: 28mg
- Carbohydrates: 10g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugar: 3g
- Protein: 1g
Actual nutrition may vary depending on how recipe is prepared.
All images and text ©.
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- Boil enough water to fill up your thermos. I like to use an electric kettle, but use the stove or whatever else you have.
- While it’s heating, get your ingredients ready.
- Fill up your thermos with boiling water, close the lid, and set aside.
- Boil 3-4 cups of water to cook the pasta.
- Measure out your pasta.
- When your measured liquid is about ready to boil, pour out the water from the thermos.
- Dump the pasta into the thermos.
- Pour the boiling water into the thermos until it is an inch or so from the top, add a pinch of salt, close it up, give in a few shakes, and lay it down on the counter.
Timing depends on what kind of pasta you are cooking. The pasta needs the same amount of time to cook in the thermos as it does on the stove. The nice thing about doing it in the thermos though, is that you don’t have to watch it or stir it. Just set the timer and continue with dinner prep or go relax for a few minutes.
You can cook any kind of pasta in the thermos. You can cook larger quantities of smaller pastas and you may have to break long pasta in half to fit in the thermos. Cooking pasta in the thermos saves energy and gives you a bit of a break – how great is that?!