How to cook pasta : Pasta and pizza are the iconic Italian foods.
You all probably known the “spaghetti alla Bolognese”, the most know preparation of pasta in the world. That is just one of the endless possibilities you have to garnish your pasta.

I don’t have to tell you why pasta is good for your health. Nor why any kind of food, if consumed in excessive quantities, is not good for your health. All you need to know from me is that pasta is quick to prepare, it comes in many different sizes and shapes and can be accompanied by an almost limitless number of sauces.


You can eat pasta every day and yet never have the same dish before you. Of course, pasta is very high on carbs, so I don’t actually recommend to have pasta for lunch and dinner every day.


Anyway, I’m going to tell you how an Italian cooks his pasta. The Italian being me, it actually is how I cook pasta. But my method is quite the canonical way.


First of all, “cooking pasta” means actually cooking the pasta and the sauce. While cooking the pasta itself is basically made by the one step “throw pasta in boiling water”, the sauce can be a more complicate affair.
I will give you the recipes for two easy sauces, very popular in Italy. Since the basic steps are more or less the same, you can go on and create your own sauce from there.


Second point: each kind of pasta has a cooking time, usually indicated on the package. Cook pasta for Suggested cooking time: in this case 10 minutesless than the cooking time, and it will remain hard, go over the cooking time and it will become softer and softer. Go well beyond the cooking time and congratulations! You have inedible glue!
We Italians like our pasta “al dente”, that means a little hard. You usually get it “al dente” by cooking it for exactly the indicated cooking time. But beware: since foreigners often prefer their pasta soft, you may find on the package a cooking time that reflects this and advises you to cook the pasta for much more time than an Italian would. Since pasta is cheap, you can throw away a little and experiment until you find your perfect cooking time.

Third point, just do me a favour: no ketchup. No ketchup. Repeat with me: “No ketchup. Ever.

Ok, let’s start. It's boiling! Time to throw the salt and pasta in!


Take a pot, fill it with water and put it on the stove, heat it untill it boils. Put a lid on, to make it boil faster.


When the water boils, add salt. We use “sale grosso”, my dictionary calls it “cooking salt”. It’s salt in big grains of irregular shapes. You can use the finer table salt, it won’t change the flavour, but you will need a lot more and in my opinion it’s harder to measure the right quantity – but remember: I’m doing this on almost daily basis, so I’m working out of habit here. You my find that for you it’s easier to get the right quantity of salt by using table salt. The “right quantity of salt” is a personal taste affair, experiment until you find yours. Why waiting until the water boils to add salt? Because salted water takes longer to reach the boiling point. Adding salt right away won’t affect the final flavour, but it will lengthen the time to reach the boiling point.


After adding salt, wait half a minute, then put the pasta in. Put the pasta in the water when it boils, not before, or you will ruin it!


Wait the cooking time indicated on the package, mix the pasta often to avoid it gluing to the surface of the pot. Now, cooking pasta is simple and there are no secrets in it. But there is one trick. Pasta is like a sponge: it Pasta is in! A wooden spoon is optimal to stir it. Notice the sauce heating in the pan absorbs the fluid in which it’s immersed. Cooking it immersed in water is ok, but cooking it immersed in the sauce is better! It will be flavoured by the sauce from the inside. So here’s the trick: one minute before the cooking time is over pour one or two table spoons of cooking water from the pot in the pan where you are heating the sauce, then strain the pasta out of the water and pour it in the pan, mixing it with the sauce and ending the cooking time in there. Let it heat for a minute, a minute and a half, then take the pan from heat and serve your pasta.


That’s it: true Italian style pasta.


Now, the recipes of the sauces.


The first one is a classic: tomato sauce. You’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Pepper or chilli pepper
  • Fresh basil

Put a table spoon of oil in a frying pan, add tomato sauce, a hint of pepper or finely minced chilli pepper, let it heat for 5-6 minutes stirring from time to time, pour the pasta in the pan, keep cooking for a minute more. When it’s ready, take out from heat, add a few leaves of basil and serve.


The second one is zucchini and shrimps. You’ll need:

  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh shrimps (you can boil them before using in this recipe. I never do that, but it’s a matter of taste)
  • Pepper
  • One zucchini (cut in rounds or sticks)

Put a table spoon of oil in a frying pan, add the zucchini, the shrimps (without shells) and spray lightly with pepper. Let cook on low fire for 10 minutes stirring from time to time, then add the pasta and keep heating for a minute more, stirring the mix. When it’s ready, take out from heat and serve. There you are. Original Italian pasta.Pasta heating with the sauce. Almost ready!


Wow, I’ve written a lot of words for something that it’s actually very easy and quick to do, so let’s summarize:

  1. Fill a pot with water and heat on a stove
  2. When the water boils, add salt
  3. Wait 30 seconds and put the pasta in the pot
  4. Wait the cooking time less one minute, stirring from time to time
  5. When there’s one minute left, take 2 spoons of cooking water and add them to the pan where you are heating the sauce
  6. Strain the pasta
  7. Pour the pasta in the pan with the sauce
  8. Cook for one minute, stirring
  9. Take out of heat and serve
To save time I usually prepare the sauce and start heating it while I wait for the water to boil and for the cooking time to be over. You can also prepare a variety of sauces in advance and freeze them, taking them out of the freezer when you need them, letting them unfreeze naturally or microwaving them, then heating in the pan while the pasta is cooking up. You can also use industrial made sauces, there’s nothing wrong in that. Remember: the only trick is to heat the sauce in a pan, cook the pasta one minute less than suggested, then pour it along with a couple spoons of cooking water in the pan and finish cooking the sauce and the pasta together in the pan. Buon appetito!