Pasta is one of the most accessible and favorite food for almost everyone. Its fame bloomed as foodies, bloggers, and vloggers started to share their experiences with pasta across the globe. This gave ideas and opportunities to some aspiring chefs to showcase their very own recipes with complete instructions.
Eventually, a lot of people have been caught with this trend, trying the recipes posted on social media sites. Although cooking pasta seems so easy, many people are victims of tough and chewy or soft and mushy—or even worse, all clumped together pasta.
The key to success in your kitchen is knowing how long to cook pasta. If not, every time you find yourself experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll end up wondering whether you cooked it too much or less. Here are some facts and science you might consider to achieve a perfectly cooked pasta.
Types of Pasta
We must first understand the different types of pasta. The composition may affect the whole process of cooking pasta. Traditionally, pasta is made of semolina or semolina from durum wheat as a base.
Durum wheat retains its shape and firmness when properly cooked, while pasta that is not made with durum produces softer noodles. This type of pasta will not hold up well when tossing.
There are two kinds of pasta available in the market, dry and fresh pasta. Dry pasta is usually available in groceries stores and is packed in a box. Dry pasta is made with a mixture of durum wheat, water, and salt, formed in a different mold. In contrast to fresh pasta, it is mixed with water and egg and is usually homemade. Dry pasta needs to be cooked longer than fresh pasta. Just be conscious and read the label when buying dry pasta because cheap brands may use a different mixture of wheat.
If you are planning to make pasta or need a substitute for a certain pasta, it is best to substitute one type with another of similar characteristics. It is important to follow the rules when matching the shapes of pasta to the sauce so that the absorption of flavors won’t be affected.
Pasta Cooking Time
So, how long does it take to cook pasta? Here is a list of common pasta types, grouped according to their cooking time.
- Pasta with 5 to 7 minutes cooking time
- Acini de pepe
- Pasta with 8 to 10 minutes cooking time
- Elbow macaroni
- Rosamarina (orzo)
- Pasta with 9 to 13 minutes cooking time
- Shells (medium and small)
- Wagon Wheel
- Pasta with 10 to 15 minutes cooking time
- Shells (jumbo)
How to Cook Pasta
Now that you have learned the general tips to follow on how long to cook pasta, you are ready to prepare a perfect pasta dish.
Step 1. Boil the water.
Choose a large pot or casserole where you can freely stir your pasta while cooking. Fill it with five to six quarts of water for every 16 oz package of pasta. Set over high heat and cover with lid to boil faster.
Step 2. Add the salt and oil.
When the water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of sea salt and wait until it comes back to a boil. You may add a bit of oil to the water to keep the pasta from clumping, but it won’t replace the need for stirring while cooking. Some cooks do not prefer this style because it makes the pasta too smooth and slippery for the sauce.
Step 3. Add the pasta.
Add all the pasta at once and keep it on high heat while stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove the lid when it comes to a boil so it won’t overflow. If you are making a set of pasta dishes, do not mix pasta types in a single casserole. Check and stir the pasta from time to time to make sure that they are not clumping together while waiting for the second boil.
A common mistake of beginners is they pour the pasta before the water comes to a boil. When this happens, the pasta’s starch will dissolve faster and will make it stick together. That is why fast boiling, consistent high heat, and stirring are very important.
Step 4. Cook the pasta.
You can check the packaging label on how long to cook pasta. If it’s not available, you can use the guide above. The time starts when you put the pasta in the boiling water. A minute before the said time, you can test its doneness. The phrase “al dente” in Italian means “to the tooth” and it is used for a level of doneness. This is done by biting the pasta. It should resist a bit and not be too soft but doesn’t have a hard white at the center. If it has a white dot at the center, it’s not yet done.
Step 5. Drain the pasta.
Let the pasta cook again and repeat the test until such expectation is met. Drain the pasta but do not rinse with water. It will remove the starch needed to blend with the sauce.
Step 6. Add the sauce and serve.
Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve.
If you took the pasta too early, do not throw your pasta away. If it is undercooked, you can put it back. Just add a little water from your cooking water and your sauce. Cook on medium-high heat to avoid melting. The heat will be just enough for the pasta to absorb the flavor.
Cooking pasta is always fun, although not easy. You need some practice to perfect it, but it does not have to be a problem. Just follow this guide on how long to cook pasta and always keep in mind the factors that you should consider – the different types, preparation, composition, shapes, and sizes of pasta. Discover more about pasta here.