Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Pasta

June 19, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to stretch, salt, and sauce your way to the perfect pasta. 

Pici Pasta with Dandelion Greens

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Pasta is rightfully hailed as the king of easy entertaining and weeknight dinners. It’s unselfishly forgiving, graciously accepting our pantry want-nots and fridge mavericks to become a hearty, filling meal. But when we’re craving pasta -- really craving it -- we want it to be good. We want salted, tender noodles with a giving bite, a sauce that doesn’t slip off of them, and a final dish that won't leave us wishing for anything more. 

So whether you're looking for a show-stopping dish to please a crowd, or just looking for a better weeknight pasta, we’ve rounded up the best pasta practices we know. Here’s to the quest for the perfect pasta.

Perfect Your Weeknight Pasta

  • First, pick your pasta. If it's a busy weeknight or you're on a tight budget, go with a dried, boxed pasta -- just be sure to treat it right.

More: Ramp up the flavor with a seasonal boxed pasta. 

How to Make Pasta From Scratch How to Make Pasta From Scratch

Beet Ravioli

How to Salt Pasta Water How to Cook Pasta

  • It's time to cook your pasta. Before it even enters the pot, be sure to generously salt your water -- no less than 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta.
  • Then, cook your pasta using one of these three methods (one of them takes just 60 seconds!), until the noodles have the texture of a fresh stick of gum. 

How to Make Tomato Sauce from Canned Tomatoes

A penne for your thoughts -- what are your tips for making the best pasta?

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • silvestro silvestori
    silvestro silvestori
  • Christina @ Christina's Cucina
    Christina @ Christina's Cucina
Student, aimless wanderer of grocery store aisles, almond butter's number one fan.


cucina D. June 19, 2014
I make homemade pasta often combined with seasonal ingredients and a light hand on the sauces I use. You should always be able to taste the pasta itself as well as the sauce and ingredients that are combined in the dish.
silvestro S. June 19, 2014
Regarding 'pairing' sauce to pasta here in Italy it's anything but arbitrary. Also go classic. You mentioned essentially three types of pasta: fresh egg and cake flour pasta, dried extruded pasta and fresh water-based pasta, such as those of the South (fusilli, le orecchiette, busiate, etc). Egg pasta should always be dressed with animal fats (butter or lard) and hard durum (the second word is redundant) wheat-based pasta should always be based on olive oil. No one here would argue any of this, but onside of Italy the use is very, very different.
Silvestro Silvestori
Lecce, Italy.
Christina @. June 19, 2014
Glad you posted this comment, Silvestro! Nothing gets an Italian's blood boiling more than suggesting the "wrong" sauce with a certain pasta! I'm not a pro, but remember telling my family (in Italy) we could have a certain type of pasta, knowing which sugo they had made, and it was almost as if I'd started WW III! I love that Italians (we) are this passionate about food!