How to cook pasta step 6: Drain your pasta

Simple and quick to make, pasta is one of the most popular and essential store cupboard staples. Follow a few basic principles and these six steps, and you’ll soon know how to cook pasta like a pro.

This guide will show you the basics, but check out our ultimate guide to pasta shapes to find out the best pasta and sauce pairings. Try spaghetti with basil and tomato, robust pappardelle with rich ragù or small tubes of macaroni with silky cheese sauce

For now though, start simple. Here are some basic ‘rules’ to follow:

  • Always, always salt the pasta water! It will affect the taste of the pasta, and the sauce you serve it with, so never miss out this step. 
  • Avoid food waste and measure your portions. 75g of dried pasta per person is about right. If you’re cooking for 4 people, you’ll need 300g of pasta.
  • Give your pasta plenty of room to cook – so you want a large pan.
  • Cover your pan with a lid to help bring the water up to the boil more quickly, then remove the lid once the water is boiling or reduce the temperature slightly to stop it bubbling over.
  • Add the pasta to the water once it’s boiling, never before, and cook without the lid.


You’ll need:

sea salt
dried pasta (75g per person)

Equipment:
large saucepan
wooden spoon
mug
colander

  1. Fill a large saucepan with water, put the lid on and bring to the boil over a high heat.

    How to cook pasta step 1: Bring a pan of water to boil

  2. Add a good pinch of sea salt.

    How to cook pasta step 2: Add a pinch of salt to boiling water

  3. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta.

    How to cook pasta step 3: Pour your pasta into boiling water

  4. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. To tell if your pasta is cooked, try a piece about a minute or so before the end of the cooking time. It’s ready when it’s soft enough to eat, but still has a bit of bite. The Italians say ‘al dente’.

    How to cook pasta step 4: Test your pasta to see if it's cooked

  5. Scoop out a mugful of the starchy cooking water and set aside. This will help emulsify the pasta sauce.

    How to cook pasta step 5: Save a cup of pasta water before draining

  6. Drain the pasta in a colander over the sink. Now it’s ready to toss through your favourite sauce – it’s best to do this in the pan, adding splashes of cooking water and mixing as you go until your sauce coats the pasta and is the perfect consistency.

Now for the sauce: try one of these four delicious ways

Or check out some of these delicious pasta recipes: