Put it in a pot, cook it for a few minutes, throw some sauce on it–how hard can cooking pasta possibly be?
1. Using a small pot. Yes, it’s more annoying to clean, but pull the largest pot you have out of the cupboard. This will help the pasta cook evenly and keep it from clumping together.
2. Not salting the water. The water in the pot should be “salty like the sea” before you even add the pasta, seasoning it while it cooks. So if you’re doing it right, there’s no need to add salt later.
3. Filling the pot with hot water. Sure, it’s faster, but it’s a shortcut not worth taking. Bringing cold water to a full boil ensures that any impurities or lead in your tap water don’t wind up in your pasta.
4. Adding olive oil. If you’re cooking it in a properly sized pot, there’s no reason your noodles should be sticking together. (So don’t waste your $20 olive oil until you’re about to actually eat it.)
5. Following the package instructions. They’re just guidelines–taste test a piece of pasta to check to make sure it’s perfectly al dente (still a little bit firm when you bite it) before you drain the water.
6. Rinsing the pasta. Unless you’re making cold pasta salad, there’s no reason to rinse it. You might save a calorie or two by removing the starch, but the sauce will coat the pasta way better if you keep it (reserve a little of the cooking water to mix into the sauce, too).
7. Adding too much cheese. Let perfectly cooked pasta speak for itself.