How to Fix 17 Basic Cooking Mistakes
Why it’s bad: For starters, if you use long noodles, they might not fit unless you break them first. But regardless of the pasta’s shape or size, it will probably end up sticky and gummy. “When you add pasta to a small amount of water, it lowers the temperature of the water substantially more than if you added it to a large amount of water, so the water will take longer to return to a boil. In the meantime, the pasta will sit at the bottom of the pot and start to clump up and become mushy unless you are vigilant about stirring,” says chef Michael Symon, the owner of five restaurants in Cleveland and an Iron Chef on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Also, your ratio of pasta starch to water will be too high—another cause of sticking.
Do this instead: Unless you are cooking a single serving of pasta (in which case you can get away with a smaller pot), do as Italian grandmothers do: Fill a large pot (5 to 6 quarts) with water and let it come to a rapid boil. Then add 2 tablespoons of salt (don’t be shy—professional chefs say pasta water should taste as salty as the sea). Finally, add the pasta and stir it occasionally until it’s al dente.