By Aaron Gatti

Pasta Preparation, The Italian Way

Take your pasta to the next level by following these instructions and tips.



Pro Tips

  1. When you drain your pasta, save some of your pasta water.
  2. Don’t rinse your pasta with water after it’s drained.
  3. Warm your pasta sauce (unless it’s pesto) before serving.


Boil the Water

For every ounce of pasta you are cooking, use 1.5 cups of water (ex: use 12 cups of water for 8 oz of pasta). Add water to a large pot and bring to a boil.

Make sure the water is a roiling boil before adding the pasta. Otherwise, the pasta may pile at the bottom and stick to itself. Furthermore, a vigorous boil allows the outside of the pasta to set, such that the center of the noodle will rehydrate rather than burst and release, helping to maintain structure.

TLDR: a) 1 oz pasta = 1.5 cups of water; b) make sure the water is boiling before adding pasta


Salt the Water

Once the water is boiling, add the salt. It’s best to wait until the water is boiling because salted water takes longer to boil and salt dissolves more easily in boiling water.

Salting the water is a critical step to ensure your pasta has flavor. Our rule of thumb is ~2 tablespoons of salt for every 12 cups of water.

TLDR: a) add salt after the water is boiling; b) 2 tablespoons of salt for every 12 cups of water


Add the Pasta & Stir

Now that the water is boiling and salted, it’s time to add the pasta. When you add the pasta, the temperature of the water will dip a bit, but should quickly reheat if the water was vigorously boiling before. Be sure to stir the pasta with a wooden spoon for about a minute to help separate the noodles.

TLDR: Stir the pasta after adding to boiling water.


Taste the Pasta (Early and Often)

As the pasta is cooking, be sure to taste it starting a few minutes before the estimated cook time on the box. The cook time will be different based on many factors - altitude, stove heat, etc. - so it’s important that you check for doneness along the way.


Al Dente & How to Know Your Pasta is Done

Al dente means “to the tooth” in Italian and is the preferred way to serve pasta by most chefs (and Italians). It gives the pasta a little more bite and makes for a more interesting texture that pairs nicely with the sauce. Plus, al dente pasta is said to be easier to digest than under or overcooked pasta.

To achieve al dente pasta, taste the pasta early and stop cooking on the earlier side of the recommended cook time on the box.


Drain Pasta - Never Rinse & Save the Pasta Water

Draining the pasta may seem like the simplest step, but there are some important tips to remember. When you drain the pasta, instead of making sure every last drop is out of the pot, leave some of the water. The starchy, salty water will help thicken and flavor the sauce.

You never want to rinse authentic pasta. There’s an important film on the pasta that allows the sauce to more easily stick to the noodles. If you rinse the pasta, the sauce and noodles won’t mix as well.


Heat the Sauce

You should always heat your sauce in a saucepan before adding it to the noodles. The one exception to this rule is pesto, which is raw so it should not be heated.

Heating the sauce ensures that the noodles and sauce mix well and that the cooked noodles don’t absorb more water in the cold pan of sauce, becoming mushy.

Once the sauce is heated, transfer the pasta (along with some of the water) from the pot to the sauce pan and simmer while stirring to coat the noodles with the sauce.


Finish the Pasta with Cheese and Herbs

After a minute or so, the pasta should be well coated. Turn the pan off heat, and add your cheese and herbs. Transfer to a plate or bowl and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!


Discover Chef-inspired Pasta Recipes

All About the Shapes


One of the most famous and beloved Italian pasta shapes, Penne complements almost every sauce. It’s especially delicious when paired with a chunkier sauce.

Fun fact: Penne translates to “pen” and was originally created to imitate a fountain pen’s steel nibs.



Known for its corkscrew shape, fusilli’s grooves make it the perfect vehicle for myriad sauces, especially rich and creamy ones. Fusilli is also great in one-pan dishes, salads, and pasta bakes.

Fun fact: Fusilli was originally created in Southern Italy by setting fresh spaghetti around thin rods to dry.



Small, squat pasta that resembles a radiator grill. The ruffles help radiatori pasta hold more sauce since it gives the pasta more surface area to absorb into. Radiatori works especially well with thicker sauces.


Curly Macaroni

Curly macaroni is formed in a helical tube shape and bears resemblance to fusilli’s corkscrew shape. The corkscrew makes it perfect for creamy sauces like macaroni and cheese.

Fun fact: Macaroni and cheese was brought to the United States by Thomas Jefferson, who encountered it in Paris. He served it a state dinner in 1802 and the dish has been popular in the US ever since.



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