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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Cooking Pasta

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 1/13/2018 Brooke Nelson
© Petrut Romeo Paul/Shutterstock

To a hungry cook in a hurry, no quick-and-easy meal is quite like plain, old pasta. Toss together some noodles and sauce, and voila! Dinner is served. There’s just one problem: Most of us don’t have the patience (or time) to wait for the pot to boil. But if you think you can save a few minutes by using a smaller pot, you might want to think again.

Sure, the logic makes sense at first. Using a smaller pot means you need less water, which will speed up the boiling process. But this little mistake could make a big difference for your plate of pasta, chefs say. (That’s not the only kitchen mistake you’re probably making, either.)

First of all, long noodles might not fit in a small pot unless you snap them in half. Some Italians swear that breaking pasta is bad luck, while others say it’s just bad cooking form.

But there’s another reason why you should pay more attention to your water-to-pasta ratio. Adding a large handful of pasta to a small pot of water can cause the water’s temperature to drop fast, and it will take longer to start boiling again. As your noodles sit in lukewarm water, they will begin to get mushy and clump up, Iron Chef Michael Symon told Real Simple.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to this pesky problem. Fill a large pot with five to six quarts of water, adding two tablespoons of salt once it starts boiling. (Here’s why you should never add oil to your pasta water.) Throw in the pasta, and stir it occasionally until it’s done. Then, dig in!

We hate to break it to you, but you’ve been draining pasta wrong your whole life, too.

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