• Unless you have a consistent supply of pasta or a very good eye, the only way to tell whether store-bought pasta is done is to taste a bit of it. Dried pasta can be three months old or three years old, and the latter will take longer to soften than the former. Homemade pasta, if it is used fresh, should never take more than three to five minutes to cook properly.
• For short pastas and egg noodles, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, ziti, etc., 2 ounces uncooked is roughly equal to 1/2 cup dry and about 1 cup cooked (Larger, bulkier shapes such as bowties, penne rigate, rigatoni, and wide noodles may yield more, while smaller shapes such as Stars or Alphabets may yield less).
• Keep leftover cooked pasta in the refrigerator for up to three days. When it’s time to reheat, simply put it in a colander and then place it directly into boiling water for one minute.
• Store uncooked, dry pasta in your cupboard for up to one year. Keep in a cool, dry place. Follow the “first-in, first-out” rule: Use up packages you’ve had the longest before opening new packages.
• Refrigerate cooked pasta in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. You may add a little oil (1-2 tsp. for each pound of cooked pasta) to help keep it from sticking. Because cooked pasta will continue to absorb flavors and oils from sauces, store cooked pasta separately from sauce.
• If you will be serving pasta as a main course with, say, a salad and some crusty bread, count on 4 ounces of pasta per diner. In other words, a one-pound box of dried pasta will serve four as a main course. If the pasta will be a side dish to a protein (think chicken Parmigiana), allow only 2 ounces per diner.
PASTA MYTHS — DEBUNKED!
MYTH: Breaking long pasta into shorter pieces makes it easier to eat.
TRUTH: If spaghetti were better short, it would have been made that way! Plus, broken strands are hard to eat since they’re not long enough to twirl onto a fork.
MYTH: Add olive oil to the cooking water to keep the pasta from sticking.
TRUTH: Pasta shouldn’t stick when properly cooked. If it’s cooked with olive oil, it will actually coat the noodles and prevent sauce from sticking.
MYTH: Throw the pasta against the wall — if it sticks, it’s done. The only way to know if it’s done is to taste it! It should be al dente, or firm to the bite.
TRUTH: The more pasta cooks, the gummier it gets, so if it sticks to the wall it’s probably overdone.
MYTH: Rinse pasta after cooking and draining.
TRUTH: This will make the pasta cold and rinse away the starch that helps bind the sauce to it.