Tips for Cooking Pasta
To cook pasta more evenly, prevent it from sticking together and avoid boil-overs, always cook pasta in a large kettle or Dutch oven. Unless you have a very large kettle, don't cook more than 2 pounds of pasta at a time.
For 8 ounces of pasta, bring 3 quarts water to a full rolling boil. To flavor, add 1 tablespoon salt if desired. To prevent pasta from sticking, add 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil if desired. Stir in the pasta all at once. Return to a boil;boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Cooking times vary with the size and variety of pasta. Dried pasta can take from 5 to 15 minutes to cook; fresh pasta can cook in as little as 2 to 3 minutes. Follow the recommended cooking directions on packaged pasta.
To test for doneness, use a fork to remove a single piece of pasta from the boiling water. Rinse in cold water and taste. Pasta should be cooked until "al dente", or firm yet tender. Test often while cooking to avoid overcooking, which can result in a soft or mushy texture. If pasta will be used in a recipe that requires further cooking, such as a casserole, undercook by one-third the recommended time.
As soon as the pasta tests done, pour into a large colander to drain, being careful of the steam as you pour. If using the pasta in a salad or at a later time, rinse it with cold water to stop cooking and to remove excess starch.
Allow 2 to 4 ounces of pasta per person for a main-dish serving.