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Stop rinsing your pasta after cooking: We asked an Italian chef about 9 pasta myths

When it comes to doing pasta, sometimes it’s about throwing a noodle against a wall and seeing if it sticks – literally. Many home cooks are virtually clueless when it comes to perfecting the art of making the classic Italian dish, accepting pasta-making myths as fact and ruining the carbs they crave in the process.

The Bucatini blasphemy stops here. We have Filippo De Marchi, head chef at NH Collection Venezia Murano Villa‘S De Majo Restaurant & Terraceto provide us with his culinary expertise and put an end to the porridge that is often considered macaroni.

“Cooking pasta is not difficult at all. It’s all about timing and the right ratio of water to pasta,” he says. “Don’t fall into the trap of believing in myths. Just trust your instincts and follow the simple instructions.”

So we compiled nine of the most popular pasta-making myths we could find and asked De Marchi to either support or debunk each one.

Myth #1: Throwing pasta against the wall to see if it sticks proves it’s done

Answer: INCORRECT

a fork of pasta a fork of pasta

Tetra Images/Getty Images

“This is not the best way to check doneness,” argues De Marchi. “The texture of the pasta may change as it hits the wall, and there is no accurate indication of whether it is properly cooked.”

Instead, it makes more sense to take out a single strand and try it. Then you can determine whether the perfect al dente texture has been achieved.

Myth #2: Adding olive oil to pasta water will prevent pasta from sticking

Answer: INCORRECT

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Olive oil in your water is not the best solution for sticky pasta.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Olive oil is a necessary addition to most pasta dishes, but save it for the plate.

“The oil just floats on top of the water and doesn’t coat the pasta properly,” says De Marchi. “The best way to prevent sticking is to use plenty of water, stir the pasta regularly for the first few minutes of cooking, and make sure the pot is the right size for the amount of pasta you’re cooking.

“This way the noodles have enough room to move around and cook evenly,” he adds.

Myth #3. Fresh pasta is always better than dry pasta

Answer: INCORRECT

Color thick strips of fresh pasta Color thick strips of fresh pasta

Fresh pasta has good PR, but some dried pasta is just as delicious.

Goldbelly

It’s all about personal preference. Fresh, dry, frozen – chefs aren’t there to tell you what your taste buds like and don’t like.

“Fresh pasta has a softer texture and cooks quickly, making it perfect for delicate sauces,” says the chef. “On the other hand, dry pasta has a firmer consistency and goes well with savory or thicker sauces.”

De Marchi also compares it to choosing between two great actors for a film role. “The choice depends on the character they represent,” he says, “just as the choice between fresh and dry pasta depends on the dish you are preparing.”

Myth #4: You should leave the lid on the pot while the pasta cooks

Answer: TRUE

Wooden spoon over pot of boiling water with pasta Wooden spoon over pot of boiling water with pasta

To prevent your pot from boiling over, you simply need to place a wooden spoon over it.

Getty/JannHuizenga

“While the pasta is cooking, it is advisable to leave the lid off the pot,” advises De Marchi. “This prevents the water from boiling over and allows the cooking process to be better controlled. It also allows the steam to escape, preventing the water from foaming and forming a starchy mass.”

As recommended, also make sure to choose an appropriately sized pot so that your pasta cooks evenly.

Myth #5: Pasta should always be served al dente

Answer: TRUE

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta

Cooking “al dente” is a pasta rule you should always follow.

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Go al dente or go home, at least according to most Italian chefs.

“Serving pasta al dente, which means “to the tooth” in Italian, is the way to go. It’s the perfect balance between cooking through and maintaining a slight firmness,” says De Marchi. “Pasta that has been cooked too long can be a real downer to a dish. So if you’re going for an al dente texture, make sure your pasta is just right.”

The easiest way to ensure an al dente result every time is to follow the cooking instructions on the back of the package and start with the lowest number in the suggested minute range. This gives you enough time to do a taste test and determine if the dish needs to be cooked a little longer.

Myth #6: Adding salt speeds up the cooking process

Answer: INCORRECT

Salt shaker spilled on the table Salt shaker spilled on the table

Salt will not make your pasta water boil any faster.

Morton Salt via Amazon

Salt plays an important role in boiling water, but not in heating it. Instead, it’s important to add salt to allow the pasta to absorb its flavor.

“If you cook without enough salt, the pasta can end up tasting a bit bland,” warns De Marchi, whose signature dish at NHC Murano Villa spaghetti is all vongole. The seafood dish, which comes from the Venice region bordering the sea, is a combination of vongole (typically mussels, garlic, white wine and chili flakes), sea asparagus and lemon zest.

Myth #7: Drain pasta until completely dry

Answer: INCORRECT

silly Kollander silly Kollander

A little pasta water ensures that the sauce sticks better.

OTOTO via Amazon

It’s not for nothing that salted pasta water is so popular. Not only does it contain a delicious brine to enhance sauces, but it also helps the sauce stick to the pasta itself.

“This creates a more cohesive and flavorful dish,” argues De Marchi. “A little moisture can go a long way toward making your pasta dish extra delicious.”

Myth #8: You should rinse cooked pasta under fresh water before serving

Answer: INCORRECT

Sieve Sieve

Running your pasta under water will remove much of the starch.

David Watsky/CNET

If you want to expose yourself to possible injury from a Nonna rolling pin or wooden spoon, run your cooked pasta under fresh water.

“This can remove that [aforementioned] “Starch coating that ensures the sauce sticks to the pasta,” says de Marchi. “The residual heat from the noodles.” [actually] helps the sauce combine with the pasta, creating a more flavorful and cohesive dish.

“Think of it like a beautiful marriage – you want the sauce and the pasta to come together and live happily ever after, not to be given a cold shower right before serving.”

Myth #9: You should pre-cook lasagna sheets

Answer: INCORRECT

Spinach Lasagne Spinach Lasagne

Not all lasagna recipes call for precooked noodles.

CNET

“It’s not always necessary to precook lasagna sheets, especially if you’re using a sauce with a lot of moisture,” he says. “In fact, many lasagna recipes call for using the leaves directly without precooking so that they can absorb liquid from the sauce and cook during the baking process.”

Set it, forget it and let the magic happen in the oven. Pasta is not something to think about or worry about for too long. The ease of preparation makes it even more fun.



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