Help! I always seem to overcook dried pasta, but the cooking times listed on the box always result in pasta that is way too hard and tastes raw, not al dente. I always keep the water at a full boil when cooking the pasta. What could I be doing wrong? (This is actually a problem I've had for years but never asked anyone!)
The cooking times on a pasta box should be treated as a guideline only as some people prefer their pasta to be slightly firmer and some prefer it slightly softer. When you are cooking pasta it is best to taste it to check if it is cooked to your liking. Start checking a couple of minutes before the cooking time stated on the box and keep checking every minute. Use a pair of tongs to carefully lift out a piece of pasta from the saucepan, let it cool slightly so that you don't burn your mouth, then taste the pasta.
Use lots of water when cooking pasta and salt it to your own preference. You should start timing the pasta from the point where the water comes back to the boil. You should start timing the pasta from the point where the water comes back to the boil. Drain the pasta soon as it is cooked to your liking and don't leave it in the hot water as it will continue to cook as it stands. Some Italians like to pour a cup of cold water into the pan as soon as the pasta is done to quickly stop the cooking, then drain it. If the pasta is for a salad then rise it for a couple of minutes under a cold running tap to help cool the pasta quickly and to remove any excess starch clinging to the pasta.