Tips and Tricks for Cooking Pasta
How to Cook Pasta: A Basic Overview
There are so many reasons to eat pasta—it is delicious, easy to cook and affordable. It’s also versatile because it makes a great base for a wide array of other healthy ingredients like lean proteins, vegetables, legumes and fruits.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when cooking pasta is that you should always aim to cook it until it is firm, or “al dente,” which means “to the tooth” in Italian. Pasta that is cooked al dente maintains pasta’s low-glycemic index value and it also tastes better than pasta that is overcooked and mushy.
Barilla pasta is made with the highest quality durum wheat, so it doesn’t release a lot of starch in the cooking water. Pasta that releases excess starch will turn cooking water cloudy and usually results in cooked pasta that is sticky and clumps together.
Pasta Prep: How to Cook Plain Pasta in Advance
You can prepare pasta up to 24 hours in advance. To do so, follow these instructions:
- Cook it for half the time recommended in the package instructions.
- Then, drain the pasta and spread it out on a cooking sheet and allow it to cool.
- When it is cool, toss the pasta with extra-virgin olive oil—aim for approximately 1 teaspoon of oil per pound of pasta.
- Then, put the pasta in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and refrigerate.
- When you are ready to start making your dish the next day, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and allow it to cook for approximately 1 minute.
How to Cook Pasta for Pasta Salad Recipes
If you are making a pasta dish that will be served at room temperature or a chilled pasta dish such as pasta salad, follow these instructions:
- You should cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the time recommended in the package instructions.
- Then, drain the pasta, spread it out on a cooking sheet, drizzle a single layer of extra-virgin olive oil over it and allow it to cool. Spreading it out on the cooking sheet allows it to cool quickly and prevents it from overcooking and the olive oil will keep the pasta from sticking.
- When the pasta is cool, simply combine it with the other ingredients called for in the pasta salad recipe. Looking for inspiration?
How to Cook Barilla® Collezione Filled Tortellini in Advance
You can prepare Barilla® Collezione filled tortellini up to 24 hours in advance. To do so, follow these instructions:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the tortellini and cook for one minute less than the time recommended in the package instructions.
- Then, drain the tortellini and drizzle it with a little extra-virgin olive oil to prevent the tortellini from sticking to each other.
- Spread the tortellini out on a flat platter or cooking sheet and allow it to cool.
- Once it has cooled, store in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate.
How to Cook Barilla® Gluten Free Pasta in Advance
Unfortunately, it is not advisable to cook gluten free pasta in advance because it is made of corn and rice, both of which break down more quickly and easily than wheat. As a result, gluten free pasta tends to become mushy and tasteless when cooked a second time.
How to Prepare Lasagna in Advance
You can prepare lasagna up to 24 hours before baking it. To do so, follow these instructions:
- Assemble the lasagna in an oven-safe container and store it in the refrigerator. The temperature should be at or below 40 degrees.
- When you are ready to cook the lasagna, bake it in the oven for approximately 60 minutes at 375 degrees. Due to its cold temperature, lasagna that has been stored in a refrigerator requires a slightly longer cooking time than lasagna that isn’t prepared ahead of time.
- If your recipe calls for egg, the cooking time will be approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees. Hearing or seeing the edges sizzling is usually a good indication that it is nearing or at the desired internal temperature.
What is the Correct Ratio of Sauce to Pasta?
Many people wonder how much sauce to use when cooking pasta. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use one jar of pasta sauce for every pound of cooked pasta.
Pasta Pro-Tip: Save Your Cooking Water
When you finish boiling your pasta, don’t pour all of the water down the drain. Set aside one cup and add it to your sauce as you mix in the cooked pasta. A little cooking water can take sauce from “too thick” to “just right” without diluting the deliciousness. Plus, starch is also saved in the water, which allows the pasta to further cook in the pan with the sauce—giving it texture and flavor at the same time.
How to Cook Pasta for Soup Recipes
If you’re making a soup that calls for pasta, you generally only need to use approximately one-third or half of the box of dried pasta. Prepare the soup and add the dried pasta directly to it after the soup has cooked for half the time recommended in the recipe instructions. Continue to cook the soup for the remainder of the time called for in the instructions and then remove it from its heat source and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
How to Cook Pasta in Slow Cookers and Instant Pots®
You can use slow cookers to make pasta as long as you don’t mix the pasta in with the sauce and leave it sitting in the slow cooker for an extended period of time. Doing so will result in pasta that is mushy, soggy and unappetizing. For best results, keep the pasta separate until serving. Prepare whatever sauce or dish you are pairing with pasta in the slow cooker and then combine it with pasta that has been cooked al dente.
Instant Pots® are another great tool for cooking sauces and dishes that will be paired with pasta. You can also use your Instant Pot® to cook pasta, however, there is no way to ensure it will come out perfectly al dente. Using the low-pressure setting and the right timing can help you get close.
To cook only pasta in an Instant Pot®, follow these instructions:
- Place the dried pasta in the pot and add water until it is just barely covering the pasta-about half an inch above, at most. Depending on the size of the box of pasta you are using, this is generally around 4 cups of water. The key is to make sure all of the pasta is covered with water.
- Then, shut the lid, seal the valve and manually set the pot to cook the pasta at low pressure for half the time recommended on the box. If the cooking time is an odd number, just halve it and round down to the nearest minute (so, 9 minutes would become 4 minutes). Keep in mind that the Instant Pot® will spend about 10-11 minutes heating up before it begins to pressure-cook, so if you set it for 4 minutes, the whole process will take about 15 minutes.
How to Cook Barilla® Oven-Ready Lasagna
Barilla® Oven-Ready Lasagna does not need to be boiled before cooking. Simply assemble the lasagna dish in an oven-safe dish and then bake. However, if you are making lasagna roll-ups, you can boil Barilla® Oven-Ready Lasagna for 3-5 minutes, so the sheets become more pliable and can be easily rolled.
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