Pro Tips for Perfecting Pasta

Pro Tips for Perfecting Pasta

Next time hunger calls in your home, turn to a filling family favorite: pasta. With a nearly endless variety of pasta types, sauce pairings and recipe ideas, the options are aplenty, and cooking is often a breeze.

Consider these pasta cooking tips from Rouxbe, an online culinary school training people of all abilities to become better, more confident cooks.


  • Use a large, straight-sided pot with 6 quarts of water for every 1 pound of pasta. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water and stir to dissolve.
  • Wait for rapidly boiling water before adding pre-made pasta then cook according to package instructions for al dente, which means the pasta offers a slight resistance. For stuffed or fresh pasta, aim for a gentle boil and cook 1-5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water for use in sauces then drain (never rinse) your pasta.  
  • Add pasta to your sauce; never the other way around. Pair thin pastas like angel hair with lighter sauces, seafoods, basil and light oils. Fettucine, penne and rigatoni complement spicy sausage, heavy creams and chunky ragu. When in doubt, spaghetti offers a versatile option.


Pasta is a natural fit for fresh veggies, and you can put your skills to the test with Pappardelle with Garden Vegetables or create Homemade Potato Gnocchi to freeze and enjoy later.


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Pappardelle with Garden Vegetables

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 3-4


            Salted water

3          tablespoons olive oil

3          tablespoons shallots or white onion, minced

2          cloves garlic, minced

1/4       teaspoon chili flakes

1          cup white wine

2          cups pappardelle noodles

3/4       cup vegetable stock

3          tablespoons capers (optional)

2          vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced in wedges

1          handful baby kale

1          fresh lemon, juice only

2          tablespoons butter (optional)

sea salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1          handful fresh basil, torn


Bring large pot of salted water to boil.


In fry pan on medium-high heat, add olive oil and onions; saute 2 minutes. Lower heat slightly and add garlic and chile flakes. Saute on medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add white wine and deglaze pan. Cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to add freshly cooked pasta.


In pot of boiling water, add pappardelle. Cook according to package instructions then drain.


Place fry pan back on medium heat. Add drained pasta; vegetable stock; capers, if desired; tomatoes; baby kale; and lemon juice. Add butter, if desired, and toss well. Cook 2-3 minutes, tossing occasionally, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, and fresh basil.


Toss again, remove from heat and serve.


home made pasta

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

Total time: 2 hours

Servings: 2-4


2          medium Yukon Gold or russet potatoes

3/4       teaspoon sea salt, divided

2          teaspoons water

1          cup all-purpose flour, divided, plus additional, for surface

1/4       teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8       teaspoon white pepper

2          large egg yolks


Preheat oven to 400 F. Place potatoes on sheet of foil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and water; wrap. Bake 40 minutes, or until cooked through.


Peel potatoes while hot. Cut and rice potatoes. Let potatoes cool completely.


To make dough, sprinkle potatoes with flour. Aerate with bench scraper then add remaining salt, nutmeg and white pepper.


Break up egg yolks and pour over potatoes. Cover surface with flour. Continue cutting and gently lifting dough.


Test dough by squeezing gently; it shouldn’t stick. Add flour, if needed.


Shape dough into rectangle and fold several times, using fingertips to bring together. Flatten dough out until it reaches finger thickness. Sprinkle with flour and let rest 5-10 minutes.


Cut finger-width strips of dough and sprinkle strips with flour. Roll out each strip and cut ropes into 3/4-inch pieces. Separate slightly and flour well.


Fresh gnocchi can sit at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.


To freeze: Place gnocchi on tray, making sure they aren’t touching. Once frozen, transfer to plastic freezer bag and freeze up to 2 months. Cook gnocchi from frozen and serve with desired sauce.



Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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