Five common pasta pitfalls
Cooking in advance
Pasta should be cooked just before serving, with sauce ready and waiting. If your pasta sticks together after cooking and you have to rinse it with water, either it’s overcooked or it’s been sitting too long.
If you believe you can test for doneness by flinging some pasta against the wall, forget it. The first thing you need to know is that pasta that sticks is overcooked. Second, the best way to check for doneness is tasting. Whether you’re using fresh or dried pasta, it should be al dente (that is, have a little bite in the centre). Don’t rely on the cooking time printed on the package, which generally won’t account for the amount being cooked. For al dente pasta, keep an eye on your noodles throughout cooking. Fresh pasta needs only a minute or two, while dried pasta can cook in 5 to 10 minutes depending on quantity and type.
Salt enhances flavour but doesn’t affect cooking. In Italy, most cooks use 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of salt for every 750 ml (3 cups) of water.
Oil in the boil
It’s a myth that oil stops pasta from sticking during cooking. It can, however, cause problems by coating the pasta with a thin film of oil. If that happens, the sauce won’t stick to the pasta properly.
Never rinse your pasta unless you’ll be serving it cold, such as in a salad. In that case, the cold water stops the cooking and keeps the noodles firm after they’re dressed.