Pasta cooking tips

Below are some great pasta cooking tips for when cooking pasta:

Pasta cooking tips

Tortiglioni with pork fillet medallions
Tortiglioni with pork fillet medallions
  • Try not to get too carried away and stick to a few more commonly used pastas. This can help avoid ending up with about 12 half-empty packets laying around in the cupboards!
  • One thing to bear in mind when choosing pasta is that spaghetti and tagliatelle are smooth and more ideal to use with smoother sauces.  Pasta such as penne and conchiglic are ribbed or hollow and, when used with a thicker sauce, allow the sauce to stick to the pasta more easily.
  • When cooking pasta, always try to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  If cooking pasta such as spaghetti, always use a large saucepan to give the pasta lots of room.  Always add the salt when the water is boiling rapidly, as this will disperse the salt more evenly throughout the water.
  • Do not over cook the pasta.  We want it cooked to the ‘al dente’ stage, which is when it is cooked but still firm to bite.  Spaghetti, for example, will normally take about 10 to 12 minutes to reach the ‘al dente’ stage.
  • Try to use a cheaper olive oil when cooking or marinating pasta. More expensive extra virgin olive oils may have too much flavour and can overpower the final dish. Keep the expensive oils for your salads and dressings.
  • Of course, not all pastas are cooked in boiling salted water – many people’s favourite pasta dish is lasagne, which, along with cannelloni etc., needs to be baked in an oven.  Also, we can buy pastas that have already been stuffed with many different fillings, e.g. tortellini.
  • In most cases, it is nice to serve pasta in large deep warmed plates.  Try not to pile it too high and it is nice just to finish dishes with a little garnish. Try some chopped parsley, small basil leaves, flakes of Parmesan or roasted pine nuts, as a few examples.  This will give your dish that final lift, for don’t forget that we always eat with our eyes first.

Cooking pasta

  • When cooking pasta, make sure you use a large saucepan, as the pasta will expand as it cooks as it absorbs water.  Also, it will give the pasta space to move around freely and cook through evenly.
  • First, bring the water to the boil and add the salt.  If you are cooking pasta such as spaghetti, take a handful at a time and hold the pasta in an upright fashion.  Slowly lower the pasta into the boiling water.  You will find that the pasta will begin to soften as it enters the water.  Carefully coil the spaghetti into the water until it has been submerged.
  • Continue cooking the pasta in boiling water until it reaches the ‘al dente’ stage, when the pasta is tender but still has a firmness to the bite.  Spaghetti, for example, will take about 10 to 12 minutes.  The thicker the pastas may take a little longer.  It is always worth following the manufacturer’s cooking instructions.  When the pasta is cooked, drain well and a colander and it is ready to serve.
  • Cook books often suggest adding oil to the boiling water to help keep the pasta separated while cooking.  However, this is a complete waste, as mostly oil and water do not mix and you will find the oil floating on top.  Just make sure you have a large enough pan and you should have no problems with the pasta sticking together.

We hope you have found these pasta cooking tips helpful!

Watch how to cook pasta

Why not try these pasta recipes?

Pasta with prawns

This recipe with prawns is for king prawns with pasta. This king prawn recipe uses linguine in a saffron cream sauce.

Pasta marinade

Marinading adds great taste to pasta and will give you more time to concentrate on the sauce and other ingredients. Just add the marinated pasta for the final few minutes to heat through before serving.

Tomato sauce for pasta

This recipe shows how to make a tomato sauce for pasta. A tomato sauce is really easy to make and can be used in a wide range of pasta dishes.

Spaghetti with tomato sauce

This pasta recipe is for spaghetti with tomato sauce. If looking for spaghetti recipes, this spaghetti with tomato sauce is quick and easy to cook.

Pasta salad

This salad recipe is for a pasta salad and uses fried pancetta and pine nuts. This pasta salad recipe is quick to make and tastes great.

Spaghetti with cheese

This pasta recipe is for spaghetti with cheese. If looking for recipes for spaghetti, this spaghetti with cheese is nice and quick and simple.

Tagliatelle with ham and mushrooms

This pasta recipe is for tagliatelle with ham and mushrooms. This ham tagliatelle pasta dish is quick to cook and tastes great.

Pasta with roasted vegetables

This recipe with pasta uses penne pasta with roasted vegetables. This recipe with pasta and vegetables is served with a tomato sauce.


This pasta recipe is for lasagne, sometimes called lasagna. This recipe for lasagne is great served with garlic bread and a crispy green salad.

Cutting pork medallions

Pork medallions are great to cook with pasta and other dishes. Pork medallions are simply thin slices of pork that can be cooked quickly.