Coming in numerous shapes and sizes, dried pasta is one of the world's great convenience foods.
Start with a large, deep pot full of water--about 6 quarts per pound of pasta. Bring the water to a vigorous boil and then salt the water generously--if you don't salt it well, the pasta won't taste properly seasoned. Add pasta slowly, without breaking it, and stir carefully to separate. Cook until the pasta is tender and just slightly firm to the bite--a toothsome "al dente."
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Whys and What Fors
Salt the boiling water to infuse flavor. Adding salt before the water reaches a boil could discolor some pots. Use lots of water so the pasta can expand, separate, and cook evenly. Don't add oil to the water because it can interfere with how well the sauce sticks to the pasta. Rinsing the pasta when it's done can also wash away surface starches that help grab the sauce.
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The Pasta Is Prelude
Made from a paste (hence, “pasta”) of wheat flour and water, dried pastas were first developed in China and have been with us for millennia. In earlier eras, pasta making was invaluable because it provided a relatively indestructible food source capable of lengthy storage.
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