Ten Pasta Tips

* Start with good imported dried pasta. Our favorite brands are De Cecco, Delverde, Latini and Rustichella d'Abruzzo. * Make sure you use ample water--6 quarts for up to 1 pound of pasta. Cover the pot so the water comes to a boil quickly.

*Salt the water just before adding pasta; use about 3 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt for 6 quarts of water. Water that tastes slightly salty will enhance the flavor of the pasta.

* To prevent the pasta from sticking together, stir it frequently during cooking. Never add oil to the water.

Use spring-loaded tongs for stirring pasta in boiling water and in sauces, as well as for serving.

* Reserve some of the cooking water before you drain the pasta. If a sauce is too thick, a little pasta water will lighten it; if a sauce is too thin, add pasta water and then reduce it. The starch will thicken the sauce.

* Never rinse pasta. The starch that clings to the strands is important to the taste and texture.

* If you are adding pasta to a sauce, undercook it by a minute or two so it can simmer in the sauce and absorb some of its flavor.

* Serve pasta the moment it's done--it never gets better. To keep it steaming, heat your serving bowls; thick china will hold the heat best.

* Always use top-quality ingredients. For canned tomato products, we like organic Muir Glen brand best.

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