How to Cook Pasta to Perfection

Learn how to cook pasta so it turns out just right, plus get some super delicious and easy pasta sauce recipes.

For a seasoned cook, pasta might seem pretty basic, but if you don’t know the dos and don’ts, your pasta can turn out disastrously. If you’ve ever dumped a potful of flavorless, overcooked or stuck-together pasta into your colander, this one’s for you,

Not knowing how to cook pasta perfectly is nothing to be ashamed of, and you only need to know a few basics to turn out delightfully al dente pasta every single time. Before we get to how to cook pasta, though, let’s talk a little bit about pasta in general!

How to Cook Pasta to Perfection

Is pasta healthy?

This is a complicated question, and the short answer is: it can be. The long answer, of course, is more nuanced.

The first myth we should dispel about pasta and health is that eating pasta automatically causes weight gain. In a world full of carb-phobic misinformation, I want to put your mind at ease. Pasta itself isn’t really that bad for you. In fact, a 2016 study found that Italians who ate moderate amounts of pasta actually had a lower body mass index than Italians who didn’t eat pasta.

Does that mean that you can load up on mac and cheese and a third helping of pasta casserole? Of course not. The key to that study is that a healthy weight was associated with moderation.

The other key to healthy pasta is what you pair with it. Like rice, healthy pasta is all about what you pair with it. Douse it in cream sauce and meat, and of course pasta is bad for you. But pile on fiber-packed veggies, beans, nuts and seeds, and you’ve got a pretty healthy bowl of food. Try some of these healthy recipes next time you’ve got a pasta craving!

There are also whole grain and even bean- and legume-based versions of many pastas available now, too. If you really don’t want semolina pasta on your table, explore healthier pasta varieties made from whole wheat, lentils, spelt and more!

Types of Pasta

There are almost countless types of pasta, and the graphic below captures 188 of them! It also includes information for each type that tells you the best way to prepare and serve it! Click the image for a full-sized version:

Types of Pasta InfographicPretty cool, right?

Now that you’re not worried about pasta foiling your health goals, and you’re armed with a cheat sheet covering pasta varieties, let’s talk about how to boil a perfect noodle.

How to Cook Pasta, Perfectly

There are really only a few things that you need to know when it comes to cooking pasta. Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be a pasta-cooking pro!

Size matters.

If your pasta is normally all stuck together at the end of cooking, pot size and water amount are the likely culprits.

When your package directions specify a pot size and water amount, listen. You need a big pot and plenty of water for perfect pasta. The pasta needs room to move around, so the pieces don’t stick together during cooking.

Stir, stir, stir!

Frequent stirring is the other key to combatting pasta that wants to stick together. I like to stir my pasta every two to three minutes during cooking. Make sure you also scrape your spoon along the bottom of the pan when you stir, in case any pieces are sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Season with abandon.

Ever wonder why recipes tell you to salt the pasta’s cooking water? The main reason is to add some flavor to the pasta. But you don’t have to use salt alone (or at all). Throw garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning or any herbs and spices that work with your dish into the pot for more flavorful results without the added salt.

Taste often.

Your pasta box will list a range of cooking times, and this is important. I always get the best results when I set my kitchen timer to the minimum time as soon as I put my pasta into the pot. When the timer goes off, taste a noodle to see if it’s ready. From there, add one to two minutes of cooking time, then taste again. Repeat until your pasta is perfect.

Once you pour your perfect pot of pasta into the colander, you’ll want to give it a rinse, to get the extra starch off. If the pasta is going to be sitting for a long time, you can transfer to a bowl and toss with a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together.

Cashews are the secret to this dairy-free creamy garlic pasta. Serve with your favorite steamed veggies for a quick and easy meal.

Pasta Sauce Recipes

Need some saucy inspiration? These deliciously healthy pasta sauce recipes have you covered.

Do you have any tips or tricks that you use when cooking up a pot of pasta? Got a favorite pasta recipe to share? Tell us how you cook pasta in the comments!

Infographic via KCET. Photos via Getty Images


Marie W
Marie W19 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Barbara S
Barbara S1 months ago

Thank you

Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

love pasta. ty

Maria P
Mia P5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Sophie A
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks for posting

Paula A
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Christophe B
Christophe Bazin7 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago


Gino C
Past Member 7 months ago

thanks for sharing