Cooking pasta is one of the simplest things a cook will ever have to do. Cooking it well requires very few steps, but paying attention to each is vital.
1.) For a pound of pasta use at least 4 quarts of water -- double that is even better. By allowing the pasta to move easily through the cooking water, you prevent stickiness and promote even cooking.
2.) For each gallon of water add at least 1 tablespoon of salt. I add almost 2 tablespoons. Adding salt to your pasta water not only raises the temperature at which it boils, it makes sure your pasta is flavorful. When you cook pasta at lower temperatures, as happens at higher elevations, the pasta takes longer to cook, making it more difficult to get it properly al dente.
3.) Some cookbooks advise that you make your pasta sauces a touch salty to compensate for the lack of salt in the pasta. That is just foolish. If you cook your pasta correctly it will be richly flavored.
4.) Wait until your water has come to a rolling boil before adding your pasta. Make sure you stir your pasta early on, as this will prevent your pasta from sticking.
5.) Cook your pasta for the allotted time at a healthy boil. The time on the box is rarely accurate but it may be a good guideline.
6.) If thin long pasta does not slide off a spoon when you try and fish out a strand to test, it’s probably not ready. Pasta is ready to my tastes when it is firm but not crisp. In order to have a finished pasta dish with this texture you have to slightly undercook your pasta.
7.) Do not add oil to your pasta water. All you’ll get is oil on top of your pasta water, and oil through your colander, which will be quickly washed away by boiling water.
8.) Drain your pasta in a colander and give it a few shakes. For the best results, finish cooking your pasta and sauce together for a minute or two.
9.) If you want to oil your pasta so that you can hold it for a minute or two, do so after you’ve drained your pasta.
10.) Don’t rinse your pasta unless you’re making pasta salad. Rinsing washes away dissolved starch that clings to the outside of the pasta and help sauces to stick to the pasta.