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How to Make Pasta Al Dente with the Perfect Texture

The perfect pasta is a delicate balance of chewy and tender. Here's how to make pasta al dente every time

Cooked pasta dish

Pasta is one of my all-time favourite dishes! It's just so versatile and leaves you feeling so satisfied after eating it. It's also a meal my kids can cook a bonus! 

I'll admit that I can be a little haphazard when cooking pasta. I'll often throw on some water, walk away, work a little— forgetting I was even cooking pasta in the first place— only to come back to serve up overcooked pasta.

How Should Pasta be Cooked?

Experts say that you should never cook pasta to a point where it is so soft that it can't hold up on its own when scooped up with a fork (like mine).

Instead, you should cook pasta al dente

Al dente is an Italian phrase meaning "to the tooth," and it refers to pasta that's not overcooked and still has a slight resistance when you bite into it.

Preparing to cook pasta

How to Cook Al Dente Pasta

Making pasta al dente is all about cooking the pasta for the right amount of time.

If you are cooking a large batch of pasta, it's best to cook it in a large pot. This will ensure that all the noodles are cooked evenly. When it comes to cooking time, experts recommend 1-2 minutes less than what is listed on the box. 

This will ensure that your noodles have the perfect texture and don't become too soft or mushy.

Always do a little check before draining your pasta off into the colander. 

Pasta cooking tips

  • Add a touch of salt to your pasta cooking water. This gets absorbed into the pasta and gives it extra flavour!
  • Before draining your pasta, reserve some of the starchy water, you used to cook the pasta. Add this to the sauce accompanying your pasta to make it extra delicious and decadent. 
  • After draining your pasta, you might be tempted to run some cold water over it to stop it from cooking further. I used to do this, but experts recommend not to rinse your pasta because the starchy pasta helps your sauces stick to the pasta. 

How to cook Gluten-Free Pasta so that it's Al Dente? 

Gluten-free pasta can come in many varieties like rice pasta, quinoa pasta, and chickpea pasta. Gluten-free pasta tends to take less cooking time so can be more prone to becoming overcooked and losing shape. Especially if you adopt my usual pasta cooking approach of walking away and forgetting it. 

Although the same guide applies to cooking gluten-containing pasta, keep checking your pasta 1-2 minutes before the suggested cooking time and stir it frequently.

Good luck cooking your next pasta dish to perfection! 



Photo credit: Shared Food, Tomáš Hustoles


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