Make sure you know how to prepare this crowd-pleasing weeknight staple. 

By Real Simple
Updated September 18, 2015
Credit: Jonny Valiant

You may think of pasta as that one simple dish that's virtually goof-proof—and for the most part, that's true. But, as the hosts of "Things Cooks Know" will tell you, there are a few things you might be doing incorrectly when cooking this family favorite. Real Simple editors Sarah Humphreys and Sarah Karnasiewicz explain how to correct those minor mistakes before your next meal.

1. Don't put oil in the water. If you've picked up this habit, it's time to drop it. The only thing this does is make your pasta oily, which will prevent sauce from sticking to the pasta. Contrary to popular belief, it won't keep noodles from sticking together.

2. Don't dump pasta in the water, then ignore it. You have to stir early in the process to ensure that noodles won't stick together. If you just pour the noodles into boiling water and then leave them to cook, they will likely clump together.

3. Don't let noodles cook all the way. Whether you're making your own simple marinara, or heating up your favorite canned variety in a saucepan, you should let the pasta cook for the last few minutes in the actual sauce, since hot pasta generally absorbs more of the sauce.

4. Don't rinse your pasta. Similar to the above tip, there's no need to completely rinse and drain your pasta. Instead, just lift the noodles into the sauce, as we mentioned before, and use the water to help thicken the sauce you're making. It's full of starch from the pasta, so it's a great addition to homemade sauces, like an egg-based carbonara.

For some of our editors' go-to recipes and no-fail ingredients for an easy pasta night, listen to the full episode below. Don't forget to subscribe and review in iTunes!