Perfectly cooked pasta is called “al dente,” which in Italian means “to the tooth.” Al dente pasta is cooked just enough to retain a firm texture while being fully pliable.

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Boil the pasta according to the package’s instructions.

At the minimum cooking time indicated on the package, or even a minute before, remove a piece of pasta from the boiling water with a fork.

When it has cooled enough to touch, taste it.

If the pasta is mildly chewy but doesn’t stick in your teeth, it is done.

If the pasta seems a little hard or sticks to your teeth, cook it 1 minute longer and test it again.

Avoid overcooking your pasta.


  • If you don’t relish tasting hot pasta, cut a piece in half. Then look at the cross-section of the pasta. If you can see a difference between the very center and the outer ring of the pasta, it’s not done. If the pasta is one continuous shade and texture, it’s done.

  • Remove the pasta the moment you discover it to be “al dente” and eat it immediately.

  • Italians never rinse their pasta.

  • That “flinging the pasta against the wall” method might be fun, but it’s not so reliable. Overdone pasta sticks, too.