What’s the Truth Behind the Myth of Cooking Pasta

Everyone loves pasta, and everyone has their own special trick to getting that perfect al dente texture.

Here are 12 common myths about cooking pasta that you should think twice about.

1. Myth: Throw a piece of pasta against the wall. If it sticks, it’s perfectly cooked.

Truth: Both undercooked and overcooked pasta can stick to the wall, and stickiness has nothing to do with tenderness. Pasta is naturally starchy and is coated in a thin layer that acts like glue. Instead, taste your pasta periodically during the cooking process to make sure your pasta is perfectly al dente.

2. Myth: Adding salt to water makes it boil faster.

Truth: According to Curiosity, adding salt to water will actually do the opposite and increase the boiling point. Salt is used to season the pasta, not speed things up.

3. Myth: Rinsing pasta under cold water after cooking will prevent it from getting mushy.

Truth: Unless you want to quickly cool pasta for a salad, rinsing should be avoided. Rinsing removes all of the pasta’s starchy goodness and changes its silky texture.

4. Myth: Adding olive oil to the water will prevent your pasta from sticking to itself

cooking pasta

Truth: According to chef Fabio Viviani, adding oil to your water is a waste and will not prevent sticking. He recommends simply giving it a good stir instead.

5. Myth: Breaking pasta in half will make it cook faster.

cooking pasta

Truth: Breaking pasta in half will help you fit it into a pot, but it won’t cook it any faster. The cooking time depends on the diameter of the pasta, not the length, and breaking it in half will only leave you with shorter strands.

6. Myth: Water should be kept at a rolling boil during the entire cooking process.

Truth: In reality, pasta doesn’t necessarily have to be kept at a rolling boil. In Kate Heyhoe’s Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen, the author recommends cooking pasta in boiling water for two minutes and cooking it off the heat for the remaining time.

7. Myth: Pasta should be boiled uncovered, never with a lid.

cooking pasta

Truth: Cooking pasta with the lid on will not change the texture of the pasta. If anything, cooking with the lid on will increase the risk of boiling over, but it won’t do anything to the pasta itself. However, Cook’s Illustrated found that it does make water boil faster (but only by a minute or two).

8. Myth: When making lasagna, pasta sheets should be fully cooked before assembling.

cooking pasta

Truth: If the sauce is loose enough, it’s totally OK to forgo boiling your lasagna before assembling it. The water content in the sauce will cook the pasta as it bakes, leaving you with perfectly al dente sheets.

9. Myth: Drain your pasta until it’s completely dry to prevent watering down your sauce.

cooking pasta

Truth: A bit of cooking water won’t water down the sauce. The starchy liquid actually binds sauces and creates a smoother texture.

 10. Myth: A pound of dry pasta makes a pound of cooked pasta.

cooking pasta

Truth: Although a pound of dried pasta truly weighs a pound, the shape of the pasta dictates how much water it will absorb (larger surface area = more water absorption), thus changing how much it will yield. If you’re feeding a crowd, go with spaghetti to get the most bang for your buck (strictly based on weight).

11. Myth: Italians strictly prefer fresh pasta and anything less is simply a joke.

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Truth: Some dishes are better made with fresh pasta, and some are better made with dried. Dried pasta provides a tender bite while fresh provides a springy chew.

12. Myth: Pasta should only be cooked in salted water.

cooking pasta

Truth: While cooking pasta in salted water is the most common method, pasta can be cooked in a variety of liquids to change its flavor and color. Cooking pasta in red wine is just one way to switch things up.

Let’s eat!