Boil some pasta, open a jar of spaghetti sauce, and you have the quintessential meal for an American 20-year-old.

Things You'll Need

Fill a large pot 3/4 full with cold water.

Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner to High.

Wait for the water to boil, then add 1 to 2 tsp. salt, depending on how much pasta you’re making.

Add the desired amount of pasta and stir it around.

Return the water to a boil.

Cook for as long as the package instructs. Stir occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself.

To test when the pasta is done, taste it at the earliest time indicated on the package. It should be tender but still firm to the bite (“al dente,” which means “to the tooth” in Italian). If you can still see a little ring of uncooked pasta in the center of the noodle, it needs another minute or so. But it will continue to cook a little after you remove it from the stove, so keep that in mind.

When the pasta is done, remove the pot from the burner immediately and carefully pour the contents into a colander in the sink.

Shake any excess water free over the sink.

If you want, use a couple of drops of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking; but if you’re saucing the pasta, you really don’t need to.

Serve immediately.


  • Pasta should boil in plenty of water. If you’re cooking one serving, you might be able to get away with a 2-quart pot for a short, tubular pasta, but most of the time, you’ll want at least a 4-quart pot and probably larger, especially if you’re making a whole box of long, thin pasta such as spaghetti.

  • The salt adds taste to the pasta, but you can omit it if you like. It doesn’t affect the boiling time.

  • Check the package directions to determine specific serving sizes; different sizes and shapes of pasta make different amounts when cooked.