Does it seem as if your pasta always comes out too sticky, too hard, too mushy? Let this video be your guide to cooking pasta perfectly.

By Betty Gold
Updated April 10, 2020
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Cooking pasta with the just-right al dente texture—one that's chewy, firm, and fork-tender—takes technique. Practice makes perfect, but follow these simple steps and you'll be nailing it like nonna could in no time.

Once you've finished perfecting your pasta cooking technique, try your hand at one these delicious, easy to make pasta recipes (like Bucatini with Kale and Ricotta, Pasta With Parsley-Almond Pesto and Fried Onions, or Shrimp and Asparagus Fra Diavolo). You can also opt to keep things simple: drizzle your finished noodles with good-quality olive oil, salt and pepper, and finish with a shower of shaved Parmesan.

Whatever type of noodle dish inspires your palette, we promise you'll have a delicious dinner on the table in minutes with this foolproof method for cooking pasta. (Pro tip: be sure to use a big stockpot.)

What You Need

  • water
  • large pot
  • pasta
  • salt
  • tongs
  • colander

Follow These Steps

  1. Boil water in a large pot
    To make sure pasta doesn’t stick together, use at least 4 quarts of water for every pound of noodles.
  2. Salt the water with at least a tablespoon—more is fine
    The salty water adds flavor to the pasta.
  3. Add pasta
    Pour pasta into boiling water. Don’t break the pasta; it will soften up within 30 seconds and fit into the pot.
  4. Stir the pasta
    As the pasta starts to cook, stir it well with the tongs so the noodles don’t stick to each other (or the pot).
  5. Test the pasta by tasting it
    Follow the cooking time on the package, but always taste pasta before draining to make sure the texture is right. Pasta cooked properly should be al dente—a little chewy.
  6. Drain the pasta
    Drain cooked pasta well in a colander. If serving hot, add sauce right away; if you’re making a pasta salad, run noodles under cold water to stop the cooking.