Mistake 9: Only using dried pasta
Chef Di Giovanni, Aunt Jake’s: Boxed pasta (dry) works well for pasta salads, otherwise try to use fresh. It’s a night and day difference.
Chef Rolnick, Carmine’s: You can use fresh when it’s available, but serve immediately after draining. Dried pastas will sit a little better.
Making fresh, homemade pasta is way easier than you might think. Take a look at these recipes for homemade fettuccine, ravioli, gnocchi and more. Otherwise, you can always pick up a pack or two from your grocer’s refrigerated section or Amazon.
Mistake 10: The pasta and sauce don’t match
The texture of certain sauces work better with particular pasta shapes, so plan yours accordingly. For example, wide, flat fettuccine works well with creamy sauces, while thinner capellini (angel hair) lends itself to a lighter sauce; crevices of farfalle (bowties) and fusilli catch chunky sauces, but ravioli should go with a simple sauce to help the filling shine. Want more? Take a look at our ultimate guide to pasta shapes.
Chef Rolnick’s step-by-step advice is:
- Start with cold water and a lot of it! You should have one gallon of water for every pound of pasta.
- Bring the water to a full rolling boil and then add salt, about a tablespoon per gallon.
- Add the pasta but keep it uncovered—don’t cover pasta while it cooks.
- Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, maintaining a little bite and texture.
- Drain the pasta into a colander but don’t rinse it. Serve immediately—freshly boiled pasta should never sit!
- For dressing the pasta, don’t overpower it with too much sauce—you should still be able to taste the pasta once it’s sauced.
Make sure you know how to avoid these other cooking mistakes that ruin your food.