By far the most common mistake made when preparing pasta is overcooking it. Soft or hard pasta leaves much to be desired.
10 Tips for Cooking Pasta
1. Pasta should be cooked in about 3 to 4 quarts of water for a pound of pasta. It must have room to move around. If there is not enough water or the size of the pot is too small, the pasta will lean to stick together.
2. Add a Tablespoon of coarse salt (a little less if it is fine) per quart of water. This care helps to avoid sticking.
3. If you need to prepare the pasta in advance, toss it with olive oil. and place in the refrigerator in a zip top baggie. Always use a good quality olive oil.
4. Do not put oil in the water. It will cause the sauce to slide off the pasta. Besides it does not keep the pasta from sticking anyway.
5. A serving of pasta is considered to be about 1/4 pound.
6. Take your water to a fast boil before adding the pasta. A fast boil means that large bubbles will constantly be arising to the top of the water. Add the salt to the water when you add the pasta.
7. Shake immediately to prevent sticking. Continue to stir frequently until the water returns to a rapid boil.
8. Bring the water back to a fast boil as soon as possible. Cover the pot and leave the heat on high. But do not walk away. Keep a close eye on it to avoid boiling over. Once the water is boiling, remove the cover and shake. Turn the heat down to medium high and finish cooking.
9. Drain the pasta at once when it is done. You need to remove all the water to prevent the sauce from becoming watery. A colander is handy to drain the pasta.
10. Avoid "soft" pasta. Even if you don't like your pasta "al dente", there is a point when it is done. A good starting point is to cook according to the time suggestions on the package. But a good guide is to cook fresh pasta fettuccine, lasagna for 3 to 5 minutes; thin dry pasta (shells, rotini, spaghettini)
Practice until you can prepare the pasta to your idea of perfection. Then it is time to search the different recipes for sauces and added ingredients to the pasta dishes. After that you will be ready to invite your guests for a little trip to Italy as prepared by the "Chef in Training".