Chef Paul Finkelstein’s tips for cooking pasta

Are you a pasta lover? Try these tips for making the perfect Italian dish

Chef Paul Finkelstein's tips for cooking pasta

Source: Best Health Magazine, March/April 2012

I love Italian cuisine for its simplicity and fresh ingredients. I spend each summer in Italy with high-school students from Blyth Academy exploring the culture and cuisine. Here are my tips to make every pasta dish perfetto.

1. Choose the right pasta. Different types of pasta work best with different sauces. Tubular shapes like penne, and wider noodles like fettuccine, are best with thicker sauces such as bolognese. Thin pastas like spaghetti are best with light sauces (e.g., oil- or tomato-based).

2. Keep it hot. Keep water boiling after adding pasta; this helps it cook evenly.

3. Avoid overcooking. Boil pasta until it’s al dente, meaning there’s still some firmness. Keep in mind that pasta will continue to cook a little after it’s drained.

4. Skip the rinse. Transfer cooked, drained pasta directly into the pot that contain the sauce. Never rinse cooked pasta, as it removes the starch that helps bind the sauce to the noodles.

5. Say cheese! A little freshly grated Parmesan or Romano is great for topping pasta dishes, as they don’t get stringy when melted. In Italy, a pasta dish is often "finished" with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, which boosts flavour.

Paul Finkelstein is a chef and teacher at Northwestern Secondary School in Stratford, Ont. He is also a regular contributor to Best Health. Follow him on Twitter @paulfink.