Believe it or not, there’s more to making pasta than dumping dry noodles into hot water.

Recipe: Spaghetti with Shrimp and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Spaghetti and shrimp combine to make one insanely flavorful and hearty dish. Set aside an hour for this quick-cooking dinner. 

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

We’ve all been there. It’s a weeknight, the kids have soccer practice and piano lessons (on different sides of town, of course), and there’s an overflowing laundry basket calling your name. In between it all, you just want to whip up a deliciously quick bowl of pasta for an easy family meal. You go to strain the pot, and you’re stuck with a steamy pile of sticky, stuck-together pasta. What went wrong?

Believe it or not, there’s more to making pasta than just dumping dry noodles into hot water. It involves a bit of patience, too. When it comes to waiting for a pot to boil, hurried (read: hangry) home cooks often don’t have any. The biggest mistake you can make when cooking pasta, though, is trying to cheat the system to save a few seconds.

For some, this means using a smaller pot. It seems like common sense, right? The smaller the pot, the less water you need, and the less water, the quicker it will boil. While that may be true, less water also means the ratio of water to noodles may be off. A large pile of pasta added to a small pot of water will cause the water’s temperature to drop quicker than a larger pot of boiling water. This will leave your noodles sitting in warm, non-boiling water for too long. The result? Clumpy, sticky pasta.

Others may bypass the smaller pot tactic all together and outright impatiently plop that pasta into non-boiling water. We’ve all gone pasta rogue a time or two, too. We’re not here to judge. But, we are here to remind you that saving those few minutes will leave your pasta victim to the same warm water issues as small pot offenders.

WATCH: This One Trick Will Make Your Pasta So Much Better

Whip up perfect pasta every time by following these proven rules (and adding a bit of patience into your routine):

 

  1. Start with a generous pot of rapidly boiling water, at least 4 quarts of water for every pound of noodles
  2. Once the water comes to a boil, season it with two tablespoons of kosher salt to enhance any pasta’s subtle flavor
  3. Add pasta and cook uncovered at a constant boil
  4. Stir often during the first few minutes of cooking
  5. Follow package cooking time, but always taste before draining to test texture
  6. Drain well in a colander