January 4th is National Spaghetti Day. Now I know this sounds like something too simple to need a tutorial for. But think about how many times you’ve been to someone’s house and eaten spaghetti that is just sort of meh. The noodles are crunchy, or mushy, or stuck together in clumps.
Nobody ever really learned how to make spaghetti, we all just learned to throw some noodles into water and hope for the best. Every so often I’ll see some sort of spaghetti life hack on the internet, but you really shouldn’t mess with a good thing.
Now I actually don’t like spaghetti that much. But my husband recently revealed that spaghetti is at the top of his favorite foods list. Like it’s his favorite food of all time like he’s a five-year-old. So I suck it up and deal with it because I love him.
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Let’s start by looking at the real instructions for cooking spaghetti noodles. Okay, I don’t know who proofread this box but they did a terrible job.
1. Boil Your Water
You want to make sure you have enough water for your spaghetti. Spaghetti is very starchy. If you don’t have enough water then there will be too much starch in the water and it will make your spaghetti gummy and gross. So it’s better to have too much water than too little.
You can add a little salt to the water if you want. You should NOT add oil to your water. The internet suggests it to keep your water from boiling over or to keep your noodles from sticking together. The only problem is that your sauce won’t stick to your noodles either. It’s not a huge issue, it’s just not the best practice.
The best way to keep your water from boiling over is to use a pot large enough for the amount of pasta you are making. Frequent stirring, turning the heat down slightly, and/or placing a wooden spoon over the top of your pot all help.
2. Measure and Add Spaghetti
Measuring spaghetti is tough. It’s really easy to way over, or under do it. Your best option is to get a spaghetti measuring device. Amazon has a ton of great options. Otherwise you can just use your hand. “Oh, but everyone has different hand sizes.” Okay, so according to this wikihow article one serving of spaghetti is the same diameter as a quarter. So you just have to make the circle between your thumb and forefinger about the same size as a quarter.
Or you can make a ton and just eat leftovers. That’s what I do anyway because spaghetti is my husband’s favorite food.
Add your noodles to the water all once and make sure they’re fully submerged. Otherwise they will cook at different rates and you’ll wind up with some mushy noodles. Not good. If you’re using a smaller pot you may have to break your noodles in half so they fit. That’s okay too. I like to do this because it makes the noodles less messy. It’s also good for kids.
3. Cook uncovered for 10-ish minutes.
This is the part most people skip. Just set your timer. It will save you from forgetting your pasta and winding up with mush. Make sure you are stirring frequently. I recommend using a fork for this. I’ve noticed that sometimes the noodles get stuck in the corners at the bottom of the pan causing them to clump together. My husband likes to stir with the spaghetti noodle scoop thing but it’s too large to get into the corners.
Test your noodles. Setting a timer isn’t good enough. Fish out a noodle, let it cool a moment and then eat it. This is the only way to know if your pasta is fully cooked.
4. Remove from Heat and Drain
Remove your pot from the heat and drain the water using a strainer. If you’re a beginner set a colander in your sink. Pour away from yourself to avoid getting a face full of boiling steam. I have a strainer with a handle that I can hold against the side of the pot. It works great on smaller pots, but it’s a little tricky with larger ones.
Do not rinse your pasta. There’s still a little bit of starch stuck to your pasta. This creates a surface that your pasta sauce can bond too.
5. Sauce It Up
Top your pasta with your favorite sauce. Everyone has a different favorite. My husband and I really like Ragu sauce. They have a lot of different varieties and they frequently go on sale at our local grocery store.
Sometimes we cook up a pound of ground beef while the pasta is cooking. Then add the jar of sauce to make “meat sauce.”
BONUS: Make Your Own Pasta Sauce
If you’re really looking to impress someone it’s super easy to make your own pasta sauce. It’s a little more work than opening a jar, but it will make you look like an amazing cook.
I actually haven’t tried making my own pasta sauce so I don’t have a “tried and true” recipe to share with you but there are a ton of different recipes online to make your own using some tomato sauce and spices.