When to know how to cook al dente pasta, the Italian cuisine becomes a doddle.
The first step is to make sure you have plenty of water in your pan. Use a large, high sided saucepan. Add at least 500ml, or up to 1 litre of water per 100g dried pasta (depending on the capacity of your pan). Make sure there’s still enough room at the top because you don’t want the water to bubble up and overflow.
Bring the pan of water to the boil then add your pasta. If you like, or the recipe suggests, salt the water first, or if you prefer, add a splash of olive oil.
After about 8 mins of boiling carefully fish a piece or strand of pasta out of the pan. Allow it to cool and taste it. If it’s ready take the pasta off the heat straight away, if not give it another minute then re-test.
Most dried ribbons of pasta such as linguine, spaghetti and tagliatelle take between 8-10 mins. Shorter, thicker pasta shapes like bows or penne take 10-12 mins. Fresh pasta such as ravioli and tortellini will be done between 3-5mins.
Once the pasta is cooked you need to take it out of the water. Allow it to steam dry for a minute or two before mixing it with any sauce or dressing. If the sauce you want to use is too thick, reserve a little of the pasta water to thin it.
Lasagne sheets or cannelloni tubes are made to be baked instead of boiled. Make sure that the sauce you are layering or stuffing them with isn’t too dry. They will need to absorb some liquid as they bake.
Learning how to cook al dente pasta is easy and makes a world of difference to a meal.