A cozy pasta dinner makes for wonderful comfort food on cool autumn evening. We had a great time coming up with new super-fast and tasty pasta dishes for fall. If you want to give one of them a shot, follow these handy tips that'll take your weeknight dinners from meh to mouthwatering.
1. If your pot is wide and squat instead of tall and narrow, break spaghetti strands in half before dropping them in the water. This way all the pasta hits the water at the same time and cooks evenly; plus, the shorter strands make slurping them easier and neater.
2. Always check the doneness of your pasta before draining and serving. Package directions aren't always perfectly accurate. Best way to check the doneness of pasta? Try a piece!
Related: Whole Wheat Pasta Taste Test
3. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a gigantic 8- or 10-qt. pot just to cook a pound of pasta; however, you should be aware that the less crowded the pasta is, the less attention it needs and the more crowded the pasta is, the more attention it needs. Most of the time, I'd rather stir the pasta more frequently and wash a smaller pot.Sausage and penne
4. When making baked mac and cheese or any other pasta casserole, be sure to undercook your pasta. Boil the pasta for only half the time indicated. The pasta will continue cooking in the oven. Even if it's a stovetop mac and cheese, boil it for 2/3 of the time indicated on the box and finish cooking the noodles in the sauce. This way your noodles will be perfectly al dente by the time they hit the table.
5. Make sure to thoroughly salt the water. It makes such a huge difference in the flavor of your finished dish, since it's the only chance you get to season the inside of the pasta. Typically, for a pound of pasta in about 4 quarts of boiling water, I'm using about 2 Tbsp. of salt (about a small palmful).
6. Although this tip is one that pros mention often, a lot of people still don't do it. For the most cohesive, well sauced pasta, undercook pasta by about 2 minutes, drain it, then finish cooking it on medium in the same big (preferably deep, straight-sided) skillet your sauce was made in. If you don't have a big enough skillet, transfer everything to the pot you boiled the pasta in. Keep tossing and stirring it during the 2-4 minutes it takes to fully cook the pasta. You'll notice that the starches from the pasta will help to thicken the sauce slightly and that the pasta will be perfectly sauced, just like it would be at a restaurant.
And my favorite fun, non-cooking related tip:
Can't reach a candle to light it? Light the end of a piece of dried spaghetti and use it as a super long matchstick!
What tricks do you use to spice up a pasta dinner for your family? Let me know in the comments!
-by Sherry Rujikarn
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