How to Cook Pasta Correctly, According to Science

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Salt or no salt? Oil or no oil? Answers to these pressing questions and more revealed.

Cooking pasta is about as easy as boiling water, right? Well yes and no. The only real requirement is in fact boiling water, but there's more finesse to the perfect pasta than meets the eye.

And thankfully PBS and the American Chemical Society (ACS) have teamed up to unravel some of the more vexing issues of our times, like the one at hand ... how to cook pasta. Which they elaborate on in the video below.

"Pasta noodles contain only three ingredients: eggs, water and flour. But how can you achieve a tasty result every time?" they ask. "Cooking pasta chemically changes how the proteins and starches interact, making the noodles sticky and springy. Therefore, what you do – or don't do – to the cooking water can change the edible result."

The cooking process is all about manipulating the protein and the starch interactions to get that perfect al dente pasta, to that end, here's what the ACS chemists recommend:

1. Keep your pot at a roiling boil
2. Don't add olive oil (unless you're Gordon Ramsey, who insists on it)
3. Add salt
4. Add pasta water to your sauce

The gist of it all is explained much more thoroughly in the three-minute video below. And while it may seem trivial to some, there's a real beauty to understanding your food beyond a superficial level – it can make you a better cook and heightens appreciation for the things you eat. And these days, food needs all the respect it can get ... so here's to protein and starch interactions!