Pasta may be passé in low-carb dieters' circles, but it makes a great, quick dinner for many. A warm, comforting bowl of tender pasta, either dressed simply with garlic...

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Pasta may be passé in low-carb dieters’ circles, but it makes a great, quick dinner for many. A warm, comforting bowl of tender pasta, either dressed simply with garlic, olive oil and herbs, or sauced with a hearty Bolognese, is always a crowd pleaser. It’s economical — a pound of spaghetti costs about $3, is quick-to-fix, and for the single cook, reheats beautifully.

Here’s a quick tutorial that will make a pasta meal easy to fix.

• Allow 2 ounces per person for light eaters, or 4 ounces for hearty diners.

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• Eight ounces of strands, such as spaghetti, or ribbons such as linguine will increase to 4 to 5 cups cooked pasta.

• Small soup pasta such as orzo will double in volume, while 3 cups tubular or molded shapes will provide about 4 to 4-½ cups cooked.

• Dry pasta can be stored in a tightly sealed package — zip-top storage bags are perfect — or in a container for up to 2 years.

• Cook pasta in 8- to 10-quart pot with ample water that allows it to circulate during cooking. (This will prevent the strands from clumping together.)

• For each pound of pasta, bring 5 quarts water to a boil. Adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt not only flavors pasta but helps to keep it firm and from getting sticky.


• Don’t add oil to water. That will cause the sauce to slip off the noodles and pool on the bottom of the bowl.

• Never rinse cooked pasta. The pasta flavor will be washed away.

• Once the water comes to a full boil, gradually add pasta, stirring well, to keep it at a boil. Partially cover the pot until the water comes back to a rolling boil, then remove the cover immediately or the water will boil over. Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking to itself and to the bottom of the pan.

If you’re trying to piece together enough spaghetti for 4 servings, using odds and ends of different brands of pasta, either boil the pastas in separate pots, or cook in the same pot adding the brand with the longer cooking time first.


• Once pasta is dressed with sauce, it can absorb liquid quickly and become dry and lumpy. To prevent that from happening, reserve at least ½ cup cooking water before draining pasta. Then pour sauce over pasta in a warm bowl.

Tossing the pasta so it’s lightly coated with sauce is somewhat like folding a cake batter. Heavier ingredients can sink, so use a large spoon and scoop them from the bottom of the bowl to the top.

If more liquid is needed, add a bit of the reserved cooking water. (If you’re a sloppy tosser, it will be easier to put the drained pasta back into the cooking pot and then toss with the sauce.)


• Sharp, salty cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano or Asiago preferably should be freshly grated. But supermarkets with well-stocked cheese sections often sell their own blends of grated cheese, which also taste just fine.

• Italians don’t mix cheese with seafood sauces, but if you must, use a lighter hand than with meat sauces.

Sources: “Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics”; “Bugialli on Pasta” by Giuliano Bugialli;;