How to cook pasta: A step-by-step guide

Cooking Basics

How to cook pasta: A step-by-step guide

Pasta: the word alone makes your mouth water. From Italy to the UK, this staple has found its way into various dishes and cultures. It might be easy to just boil some noodles and toss them with a sauce, but there’s an art to truly mastering pasta.

Whether you’ve been cooking for years or you’re a newbie in the kitchen, our blog will teach you how to cook pasta properly in just a few minutes! Join us as we unravel the secrets of making impeccable pasta – choosing the right type of pasta, a step-by-step-guide on how to cook pasta, and the best pasta recipes. 

Choosing your pasta

First things first: what pasta should you choose? When you’re at the supermarket, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer choice in the pasta aisle.

With a plethora of shapes, sizes and colours, each type of pasta promises a different taste, tailored to specific sauces, ingredients and cooking methods. But don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it sounds! Here’s what you need to know about the different types of pasta.


Long and slender: Typical types are spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle. These types of pasta are perfect for thinner sauces to cling to.


Tubular and hollow: Penne, rigatoni and macaroni belong in this section. If you choose this type of pasta, you want a thicker sauce such as bolognese, chunky tomato or a creamy chicken Cajun!


Mini shapes: This type of pasta is ideal for salads and soups – choose from orzo, conchiglietti, orecchiette ,mini farfalle and stelline. Their small sizes and quirky shapes add the perfect contrast in texture!


Filled pasta: This includes ravioli, tortellini and cannelloni – either buy them ready-filled or make them yourself!  You can stuff cannelloni shells with anything from ricotta cheese and spinach to hearty meat ragu. Pair them with a lighter sauce that complements the filling!

Once you have chosen the shape of pasta you want, you need to decide whether you want fresh or dried pasta.

Fresh pasta has a softer texture, a more pronounced egg flavour and cooks faster.

Dried pasta has a firmer texture and is perfect for thicker, hearty sauces.


Esssentials for cooking pasta

Before you start cooking your pasta, you need to ensure you have everything you need. Here’s a list of the most important things to consider.


The right pot

Take a large, deep pot that has enough space for your pasta to move freely. This is important so that your pasta cooks evenly and doesn’t clump.


Plenty of water

Pasta needs room to swim about. The general rule is to use about 4 litres of water for every 500 grams of pasta. This may seem like a lot, but enough water will ensure that the pasta cooks evenly without sticking together.


Enough salt

Salt may be optional for some, but salting your pasta water is an integral part of seasoning the pasta from the inside out. It takes the pasta from bland to full of flavour! Typically, 2 tablespoons of table salt should be added for 4 litres of water, so that the water tastes well seasoned but not salty.


Have a strainer to hand

Once your pasta is cooked to perfection, you need to drain it immediately through a strainer. This is safer than trying to pour the water out while holding the lid on. Don’t forget to save a ladleful of the cooking water to thicken your sauce!


Cooking pasta in 6 easy steps


Fill up a large pot with water

Remember not to be too frugal with this one!


Bring the water to the boil

Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. Wait for the water to reach a boil – you’ll know it’s ready when large bubbles break the surface.


Add salt to the boiling water

Salt your boiling pasta water with about 2 tablespoons of salt per 4 litres of water – this helps flavour the pasta from the inside out.


Add the pasta and stir occasionally

Add your pasta to the boiling water, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or pasta fork to prevent sticking. And make sure that your pasta is fully submerged!


Cook the pasta until al dente

Most pasta packaging comes with a recommended cooking time. However, it’s better to start checking a minute or two earlier than suggested. You want the pasta to be al dente – tender but still firm to the bite.


Drain the cooked pasta

Drain the pasta, but make sure to save a ladleful of pasta water first – this starchy water can help you thicken your sauce later.


Don’t rinse the pasta as this washes away its natural starches that help sauces adhere better.

Voilà, you’ve cooked the perfect pasta in just 6 easy steps! With the right techniques, even the most basic of pasta dishes can be transformed into delicious meals.


How long does pasta take to cook?

The answer to this question depends on what kind of pasta you’re cooking. Small pasta shapes like macaroni or orecchiette may cook in just 5 to 7 minutes. Larger shapes, such as spaghetti or conchiglie,may require around 10 to 12 minutes.

For best results, always follow your packaging instructions, but check a minute or two before the timer goes off – you want the pasta to be perfectly al dente and not overcooked.


Best spice blends for pasta

While knowing how to cook pasta is the first step to making delicious pasta dishes, you also need to know how to season them! But don’t worry – we’ve done all the hard work for you.  Check out our different pasta spice blends to make quick and easy sauces and elevate all your pasta dishes!


Delicious pasta recipes

Now it’s time to make the most of your perfectly cooked pasta!

Its versatility means pasta is always a good idea, whether twirled in classic Italian sauces, with meat or vegetables, added into soups or tossed in refreshing salads! Check out our pasta recipe collection for all kinds of pasta recipes! It’s time to unleash your creativity and create your next signature dish.

Here are some of our favourite pasta recipes to get started: 

Pasta with pesto and burrata – Pasta with home-made green pesto, tomatoes and burrata.

One-pot pasta with salmon – Easy one-pot pasta, ready in only 25 minutes.

Creamy vegetable pasta – Perfect for after work, a creamy pasta with lots of vegetables.

Pasta salad with grilled chicken – Your favourite side dish at your next summer barbecue.

Tortellini bake – A delicious and quick tortellini bake made in the oven


Cooking basics with Just Spices

In this article, we’ve taught you how to cook pasta in 6 easy steps. Feeling inspired? Check out our Cooking Basics blog category, where you will find more articles on how to cook different ingredients or dishes like how to cook quinoa or how to cook schnitzel.