There are a lot of people now, especially young people, who don’t know their way around basic cooking.  They attempt to cook and it comes out bland, over-cooked, under-cooked, or just no good.  Everyone has this moment, even established chefs.  Hell, even the cooking greats, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, had days in their youth where they didn’t know how to make a basic meal item.  You gotta start small.

So let’s start with spaghetti.  Everyone loves pasta, and it is one of the most versatile ingredients in all of cooking.  Even the pre-made stuff can be customized to fit nearly any palate.  However, you can have a fantastic sauce, a great side, picked the best wine, but if the pasta is not fully cooked, or overcooked, then your meal is ruined.

So let’s learn how to cook spaghetti.  Read on!

Spaghetti is super simple.  All you really need is a big pot, your box of any pasta of your choosing (but I’m sticking with plain spaghetti here), and salt.

I’m using whole wheat pasta.  You don’t have to use what I use, but I enjoy whole wheat pasta, especially Barilla, for it’s healthier nutritional value.

Now, you need to fill your big ol’ pot with water.

Fill about 3/4 of the way, if you are using a whole box.  That spaghetti needs plenty of room to swim.  If you are not using the whole box, adjust the water accordingly.  Remember: It is better to have too much water than too little, where pasta is concerned.

There, now we’ve got water.  Put that sucker on the stove.  Let’s turn on the heat.  I have a glass-top electric range, which I don’t care for, but make due with have you have.

Turn the heat to medium.  You needn’t crack the burner up as high as it can go, because we’re going to use pressure in our favor.  More on that in a second.

Now add salt.  The only time you can give pasta some enhance flavor is during the boiling process, so throw a dash of slat into there.  For half a box, I use about two tablespoons.  Full box gets about three.

Just plain ol’ salt.  Just throw it in there.

Now, the key to bringing water to a boil faster is to use a principle in chemistry known as the Ideal Gas Law.  This is forcing pressure to build in a volume of liquid, and adding heat, causing it to form a gas more rapidly.

In layman’s terms: put a lid on the pot.  The pressure makes the water boil faster.

Your water will spring to a good rolling boil in no time.

Now, a side note about the water.  Don’t add the pasta when it starts to simmer.  Don’t add the pasta when bubbles are forming.  Add the pasta when the water is at a rolling boil, or when the surface bubbles almost violently.  You’ll know know it when you see it.

If you add the pasta before them, it will cool the water down enough where your pasta will get a slow start, it may affect the texture outcome, and your pasta may stick together, which just sucks.  So let your water come to a good rolling boil.  It’s worth the wait.

So, when your water is at a rolling boil, remove the lid (you might want to use a pot-holder).  Take out your pasta.

Take out as much as you want.  I used about half a box.

Now, when you put the pasta in the hot water (provided you used a long pasta like spaghetti, linguine, or angelhair) give the top and bottom a little opposite twist, so when the pasta falls it spins out into a circle.

Now, watch the spaghetti for a moment.  In about a minute, the bottom part of the pasta should go limp enough that you can twist the rest of the pasta into the water.

I use a pasta spoon for this, but a fork will work just fine.  Just be careful not to dip your fingers into the boiling water.

Then give your pasta a good, but gentle stir.  This will split up any pasta that may have stuck together.  Some people insist that if you put olive oil into the boiling water, it prevent’s stickage, but that’s just a myth.  The key is plenty of good, hot, boiling water.  So yeah, give your noodles a stir.

Now let it boil.  You can cook according to the directions on your box of pasta, but I prefer to go by taste.  Every once in a while, loop your pasta spoon (or your fork) into the water and catch a couple noodles.  If they are limp, it’s time to start testing them.  Let them cool, and taste them.

You want your pasta to be al dente.  That is, tender yet firm.  Slightly chewy, but shouldn’t stick to your teeth.  It should not have a hard core.  If you’ve ever eaten good pasta, you know what al dente is, and you should seek to emulate that in your cooking pasta.  It is very easy to over-cook pasta like spaghetti because of it’s thinness.  Test often!

Spaghetti cooks quickly, Angelhair even quicker.  Linguine takes a little longer.  Spiral pastas take even longer than that.  Taste and test often, because no two pastas were created equal when it comes to cooking time.  When your pasta hits that tender, firm, slippery stage, your pasta is done.  You need to drain it.

Put a colander over your sink.

This is an awesome silicone colander.  Mat got this for me for Christmas, and it is amazing.  It even folds flat, so I can store it away better.  I recommend it.

Anyway, now pour your pasta into this colander.

Give the colander a shake and a couple bounces to get out all of that water.

Now, don’t rinse the pasta, especially if you are going to be putting sauce on it.  The sticky starch helps the pasta sauce stick.

Using your fork, your pasta spoon, or tongs (because your pasta WILL be hot) move some of your pasta onto a plate, or a bowl.  Add the sauce of your choice.  It can be spaghetti sauce, it can be alfredo, it can be butter, it can be olive oil.  Whatever you want!  That’s the great thing about pasta.

Viola!  Pasta, cooked al dente.  The sauce and meatballs in this were being made while I cooked the spaghetti, hence the appearance of red onion and bell pepper in some of my pictures.  Maybe I’ll make a nice tutorial about my meatballs sometime.  It’s all topped with fresh chiffonaded basil, which I highly recommend.

A side note about the pasta.  When you come back for seconds, you may notice your pasta is all stuck together.  Give your pasta a quick spray with hot water from your spray-hose attachment of your sink.  Just really quick, enough to get it kind of damp.  Move the pasta around and it should un-stick.  If it doesn’t, give it another shot of hot water until it’s un-stuck.