How to Cook Italian Pasta: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cook Italian pasta perfectly with these techniques, then watch our how-to video.
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Get that Italian restaurant bite and flavor in your weeknight meals.

Step 1: Boil Water
Start with a very large pot of water, about 6 quarts per pound of pasta. Bring it to a rapid boil. Tip: A pound of pasta feeds about 5 to 6 people.

Step 2: Add Salt
Put in a lot of salt, about 3 tablespoons. If you taste the water, it should taste like the sea.

Step 3: Add the Pasta
Drop in the pasta while the water is at a boil and give it a gentle stir.

Step 4: Stir
Stir it occasionally while it cooks. Use the cooking time on the pasta package as a guide.

Step 5: Taste the Pasta
But watch out — it's hot! Sample the pasta at about 2 minutes shy of the indicated time. It should be al dente. You'll finish cooking it in the sauce. Tip: "Al dente" means "to the tooth," meaning the pasta should still have a little bite to it.

Step 6: Drain
Drain the pasta. Just be sure to save about 1 cup of the pasta water. If you have a pot with a colander insert, use it to drain the pasta. If not, drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink.

Step 7: Removing Ravioli
If you're cooking ravioli, use a slotted skimmer and gently lift the ravioli a few at a time.

Step 8: Stir in the Sauce
Add the pasta to your sauce and finish cooking it in the sauce. Give it a stir to coat.

Step 9: Add Pasta Water
Ladle a few tablespoons of the pasta water at a time until you have the right consistency to your sauce. Remember, the pasta will absorb the liquid. Tip: Pasta water helps to thicken the sauce.

Step 10: Buon Appetito!
Simmer over medium-low heat — it'll help the pasta soak up the sauce. Follow your recipe's instructions for finishing the dish. And that's all there is to it. Perfecto! Watch our how-to video for more.

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