This is from: Cooking Pasta Properly, Fine Cooking, Issue 39, July 2000
- The reason they tell you to use lots of water, 4 to 6 quarts for a pound of pasta:
It comes back to a boil faster when you add the pasta; it makes it easier to submerge long, rigid pastas like spaghetti; and it helps to reduce sticking slightly by quickly washing away the exuding starch from the pasta surface.
You really don’t have to use that much water, especially if you’re cooking less than half a pound. But, as I’ve found, the end result is a bit gummy.
- To keep pasta from sticking, stir:
Stir during the first minute or two of cooking. This is the crucial time when the pasta surface is coated with sticky, glue-like starch. If you don’t stir, pieces of pasta that are touching one another literally cook together.
- Salt the water:
Salted water flavors the pasta. A generous amount of salt in the water seasons the pasta internally as it absorbs liquid and swells. The pasta dish may even require less salt overall. For a more complex, interesting flavor, I add 1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt to a large pot of rapidly boiling water. By the way, the claim that salted water cooks food faster (because of its higher boiling temperature) is exaggerated; you’re not adding enough salt to raise the temperature more than about 1°F
Salting after the water comes to a boil is recommended to prevent the salt from settling to the bottom and corroding the pot if it’s added to cold water at the beginning.
- Don’t add oil:
Pasta that’s cooked in oily water will become oily itself and, as a result, the sauce slides off, doesn’t get absorbed, and you have flavorless pasta.
- Getting the sauce to stick:
Toss hot pasta with hot sauce quickly — without rinsing it — so the pasta absorbs more sauce and flavor. As it cools, the swollen starch in the pasta crystallizes and becomes insoluble, and the pasta won’t absorb as much sauce.
There’s that resistant starch I talk so much about. Resistant starch bypasses our digestion and ends up in the colon where bacteria feed upon it, and release good things like biotin, vitamin K, and short chain fatty acids. We don’t absorb calories from resistant starch (except the few that bacteria provide us). That’s another reason why I don’t like calorie tables.
Another reason not to rinse – bits of starch stuck to the surface of the pasta helps to thicken the sauce.
Every once in a while I like to reevaluate what I’m doing. I can get stuck doing something by habit and forget why I’m doing it in the first place. Two things this emphasizes for me, use enough water and don’t forget to salt.