How to Make Great Pasta

Use these simple tips to make perfect pasta from pot to plate.
Perfectly cooked penne on a fork with rolling steam

For something so simple, it sure can go wrong!

If you want in on the secret, follow these easy tips for perfect pasta every time.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Pasta

  • Preparing to Cook the Pasta

    • Use a Big Enough Pot

      Be sure to use a pot large enough to hold the pasta without crowding. Pasta needs to move around in boiling water.

      • Keep in mind that most dried pasta doubles in volume when cooked.
      • For 1 pound of pasta, use a pot that holds a minimum of 6 quarts of water.
    • Don't Add Olive Oil

      Don’t add olive oil to the cooking water. Oil coats pasta, and it prevents sauce from sticking.

    • Bring Cold Water to a Full Boil

      Use only cold or cool water for cooking pasta. Bring the water to a full, rolling boil.

      • To bring the water to a boil more quickly, cover the pot with a lid.
      • If the water's not at rolling boil, the noodles release natural starches that act like glue, causing them to stick together.
  • Cooking the Pasta

    • Stir Lightly with a Wooden Spoon

      Stir the pasta two to three times during the cooking process with a long, wooden spoon.

    • Don't Cover the Pot

      While the pasta is cooking, do not cover the pot with a lid.

    • Don't Overcook It

      Pasta can easily overcook. The only way to know when it's ready taste it. Keep in mind that pasta continues to cook when you remove it from the stove, drain it, and coat it in sauce.

      • Perfect al Dente

        There should be a light resistance, or chewiness, when biting it. It should not be soft or overdone, or have a hard center.

      • Stop the Cooking Process

        To stop pasta from cooking once it’s reached the al dente stage, add 1/2 to 1 cup of cold water to the hot pasta water. This lowers the temperature and stops the cooking process. Drain as usual.

  • After Cooking the Pasta

    • Don't Rinse It

      Never rinse pasta. Rinsing removes most of the starches and nutrients.

    • Use the Cooking Water

      Consider adding a small amount of reserved cooking water to pasta sauce for added flavor or to thin a thick sauce.

Click to See Our Sources

Cooking Pasta—How To Cook Perfect Pasta,”

“Top Ten Tips for Cooking Pasta,”

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Lisa Fabian

Contributing Editor

Lisa Fabian is an award-winning freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in the publishing industry. She's enjoyed covering topics as diverse as arts and crafts, boating, food, and health and wellness.