Food & Recipes

How To Cook Pasta: 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid

Who knew we were making pasta all wrong?!

If you’re like us, pasta is often your go-to food. After all, it’s easy to make and can provide you and your family or friends with a meal in minutes. But, apparently, a lot of us have been doing it wrong! I know—how hard can it be? But it turns out that some easy-to-miss errors make our pasta sub-par.

Here are five tips for how to make pasta correctly, so prepare to be impressed. Warning: This article may make you crave pasta, STAT, so you might want to have some on hand just in case. (But don’t cook it until you read the items below!)

1. It’s All About The Salt

You may already know you need to add salt to your pot of water, but did you know you should add enough so you can definitely taste it? Plus, you should add it once the water is warm and simmering (not yet boiling). Who knew, right?

“The No. 1 mistake home cooks make with pasta is under-seasoning the pasta water,” Matt Ford, executive chef at Americano, told Thrillist. “The pasta water needs to be seasoned with salt—it should not be salty as the sea, but you should taste the water and be able to taste a small amount of salt.”


2. But It Is Not All About The Oil

Some people wonder: Should I add oil to the water?

“Do not — I repeat, do not — add oil to your pasta cooking water! And that’s an order!” Linda Bastianich, television personality, cookbook author and restaurateur told Smithsonian. Apparently, this is because the oil will prevent the sauce from sticking to the noodles—and none of us wants that. Even when you drain the pasta, the oil leaves a residue, so better to leave it out of the pot.


3. And Don’t Even Think About Rinsing The Pasta (In Most Cases)

You may have been taught to rinse pasta once it’s ready, but don’t (usually). According to the Kitchn, by not rinsing the pasta, it will be able to maintain its starchy film so that the sauce can stick to it better. However, if you’re making pasta salad (which will be eaten cold anyway) or using certain noodles for a stir fry, such as soba or udon, rinsing is okay. But those are the only exceptions.


4. Save Some Of The Pasta Water To Add To Your Sauce

This may sound like a crazy tip, but chefs swear by it. For instance, the folks at DeLallo suggest saving a cup of the pasta-cooked water. Then, you can use a little at a time in your sauce until you have the desired consistency.


5. Not All Pastas And Sauces Go Together

Finally, you may think you can toss any kind of sauce onto any kind of pasta, but pasta aficionados will tell you that this is not the case. According to Chowhound, “delicate noodles are for delicate sauces while heartier noodles are for heartier sauces, but similar to wine pairing, it’s not always that simple.”

BBC’s GoodFood agrees. “Generally, the larger shapes work better with thick, robust sauces, while skinny shapes, like strands of delicate vermicelli, suit light, cream sauces.” Okay, this is essential information that we’re definitely going to start using.


All in all, great advice, right? And it makes us realize—yet again—that we’ve been cooking our pasta all wrong. But the good news? It’s not too late to get it right. Now, who’s hungry?