Pasta Cooking Tips

General Pasta Cooking Tips:

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  • Use only small amounts of vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable cooking spray when preparing pasta dishes.
  • Keep leftover cooked pasta in the refrigerator for up to three days. When it’s time to reheat, simply put it in a colander and then place it directly into boiling water for one minute.
  • Instead of meat, try adding vegetables to a light tomato sauce for a nutritious option with plenty of flavor and crunch.
  • Add leftover pasta to your favorite soup. If you use dry pasta, simmer the soup for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
  • Make mealtime more enjoyable by serving different, fun shapes – stars, letters, wheels and the all-time kid favorite … spaghetti. Introduce young pasta eaters to finger-friendly sizes like ziti, rotini (spirals), and radiatore (radiators).
  • Save time with pasta leftovers – double your favorite recipes, and freeze the extra servings for later use. This works especially well with sauces and baked pasta dishes like lasagne.

How Do You Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Time?

pasta cooking tips - how to cook pasta

  1. Boil 4 to 6 quarts of water for each pound of dry pasta. (You can divide this recipe depending on how much pasta you are cooking). To add flavor and reduce stickiness, add salt to boiling water.
  2. Add the pasta with a stir and return the water to a boil.
  3. Stir the pasta occasionally during cooking.
  4. Follow the package directions for cooking times. If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking, undercook the pasta by 1/3 of the cooking time specified on the package.
  5. Taste the pasta to determine if it is done. Perfectly cooked pasta should be “al dente,” or firm to the bite, yet cooked through.
  6. Drain pasta immediately and follow the rest of the recipe.
  7. Chef Cesare Casella has some great tips for cooking pasta in his video:


Tips to make a quick, healthy meal on a low budget

Tips on Portion Sizes and Uncooked to Cooked Pasta Measurements:

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  • For short pastas and egg noodles, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, ziti, etc., 2 ounces uncooked is roughly equal to 1/2 cup dry and about 1 cup cooked (Larger, bulkier shapes such as bowties, penne rigate, rigatoni, and wide noodles may yield more, while smaller shapes such as Stars or Alphabets may yield less).For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., 2 ounces uncooked equals 1/2 inch bunch dry and 1cup cooked.
  • To make a single portion of pasta use approximately 1/2 cup dry pasta or measure 1/2 inch diameter of dry long pasta (1 cup or 2 grain servings cooked). A single portion of sauce is ½ cup as well. For fast meals – freeze ½ cup portions of sauce, defrost, and add to any dish.

Sauce Tips:

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  • When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that “less is more” and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes is one delicious combination.
  • Be creative! Toss pasta with a little olive oil, tomato or broth for a simple sauce. By marinating tomatoes, chopped fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves in a little oil you and tossing them with hot pasta you can have a quick, healthy meal in no time!
  • For a nutrient-packed meal, pasta can be a great delivery system for veggies – top it with chopped or mixed vegetables and a favorite bottled sauce.
  • Pureed roasted red peppers make a fast, great-tasting sauce too!
  • Keep fresh herbs on hand as a quick and easy way to add a lot of flavor. Basil, which has a very fresh, delicate flavor, is best added to sauces at the last minute to maximize its flavor. Rosemary is woodsy, so it’s especially suited to cream sauces and earthy ingredients, like mushrooms. Because sage is so pungent, it stands up well in heartier pasta dishes with veal and pork.
  • Instead of creating sauce out of cream and butter, start with a base of broth, vegetables, or vegetable purees and add fresh herbs for flavor. You can experiment with ingredients that simulate the texture of fat, but aren’t fatty. For example, to slim down your favorite lasagne recipe cut the quantity of ricotta cheese in half and puree it with two large eggplants that have been roasted and peeled.
  • Use a blender or a juicer to create your own combinations of vegetable purees. Then just bring to a simmer with your favorite herbs and spices and toss with pasta.
  • Pairing pasta with legumes, such as beans and lentils, or low-fat dairy products makes for protein-rich, but inexpensive and delicious meatless meals.
  • Make pasta even more budget friendly – top pasta with leftovers – cooked vegetables, ground meat, chicken, or even a small amount of vegetable soup.
  • Think texture as well as flavor. Add a toss of toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts to a creamy pasta sauce for added interest.
  • Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients. If you plan to use zucchini in a pasta sauce, but the eggplant looks particularly good, substitute the eggplant.

How to Store Pasta

Uncooked Pasta

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  • Store uncooked, dry pasta in your cupboard for up to one year. Keep in a cool, dry place. Follow the “first-in, first-out” rule: Use up packages you’ve had the longest before opening new packages.

Cooked Pasta

  • Refrigerate cooked pasta in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. You may add a little oil (1-2 tsp. for each pound of cooked pasta) to help keep it from sticking. Because cooked pasta will continue to absorb flavors and oils from sauces, store cooked pasta separately from sauce.

Freezing Pasta

  • The best pasta shapes for freezing are those that are used in baked recipes, such as: lasagne, jumbo shells, ziti and manicotti. You’ll have better results if you prepare the recipe and freeze it before baking. To bake, thaw the dish to room temperature and bake as the recipe directs.