Cooking Italian Style Italian Food

How NOT to cook pasta? The right way of cooking authentic Italian pasta

Knowing how not to cook pasta is even more important than knowing how to do it properly, believe me. What follows is a gallery of culinary horrors: pasta dishes went horribly wrong. They may look good, even tasty to you, but believe me, no true Italian would ever prepare or even eat, a dish of pasta like the ones you are going to see. If you want to know how to cook pasta, or you’ve been asking how to cook pasta di Semola di Grano Duro, first learn how not to cook it!

how not to cook pasta
How NOT to cook pasta: sauce only on top?

How to cook pasta di Semola di Grano Duro? Here’s how not to cook it!

Cooking pasta is quite simple. We already gave you a step-by-step guide to cooking true Italian pasta.

Let’s start: how to cook pasta di Semola di Grano Duro? The basic caveat and most common error is this: you do not cook pasta, serve it, and then pour sauce over it. No. You don’t. What you want to do is mixing and stirring pasta and sauce together while they cook. This is not only a matter of taste – cooking pasta and sauce at the same time makes the pasta absorb both sauce and flavor – but also of practicality. If you put the sauce on top of the pasta and don’t eat it quickly, the pasta will become an inedible glue. Not to mention the fact that your spaghetti will look raw and uncooked.

Ok, let’s begin! If you’ve been asking how to cook pasta, here’s the way how not to cook it!

how not to cook pasta
How NOT to cook pasta: Carbonara?

Ok. That is, the picture above should be a carbonara. Right? Wrong!

What is that white stuff? Cream? Who puts cream on carbonara? Cheese (pecorino, or Parmigiano if you can’t find it), egg yolks, cured fatty pork, and black pepper are the ingredients for a true Carbonara. Carbonara is considered a traditional, poor cuisine dish, not fancy novelle cuisine! An important point is that you mix the pasta with the sauce, not drown the spaghetti in it.

Another example of fake carbonara…

How NOT to cook pasta: Carbonara?

Let’s examine this additional case. This recipe originates in Germany! What’s that soup with the floating spaghetti? When true Italians see these crimes, their eyes bleed! If you don’t want to murder an Italian, don’t do it at all.

how not to cook pasta
How NOT to cook pasta: Pasta soup?

Look at the image above: is that soup? And the red stuff, is that tomato? Seems like tomato purée…

Well, no tomato like that on my pasta, please! Not only is the spaghetti swamped in sauce, but it also looks raw. This means that the spaghetti hadn’t a chance to absorb the sauce. I cannot – and truly do not want to – even think of how that stuff tastes. This is not the right Italian way to cook pasta!

Let’s see more horrors…

how not to cook pasta
How NOT to cook pasta: Meatballs anyone?

This seems to be a favorite of American cuisine: spaghetti and meatballs. Ok, so you have probably heard about ragù, the kind of sauce we Italians make with tomato and minced meat. The point is: it should remain minced. We don’t prepare meatballs with it. A ragù is usually made by adding meat to a “soffritto” (a partially-fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, carrots, herbs, and garlic), adding tomatoes, and other flavorings. And then simmering for a long time. But no meatballs!
Think about it: you are supposed to eat pasta and sauce with only a fork, so how can you swallow an entire meatball without cutting?

How NOT to cook pasta: Meatball pasta soup?

This image is simply a nightmare! Meatballs again, yes… But there’s more wrongness in that picture. Look at the spaghetti. Spaghetti is called “long pasta” for a reason: cutting them into shorter bits is plain wrong. We don’t do that in Italy!

If you want something shorter, we have short pasta for that, like rigatoni or fusilli. If you find it difficult to pick up long spaghetti with a fork, just practice. It ain’t that difficult, and it’s much easier than eating Chinese with chopsticks. Yes, you may shower yourself in the sauce the first few times, but sometimes it happens to us Italians too, so no shame there!

I’d also add, that in Italy as well, in many regions the so-called polpette are really common to make.
Yes, Italians do make meatballs that are called polpette, but it is not being served with Spaghetti! Simply, it’s just not! So, how to cook pasta in a traditional Italian way? Well, not with meatballs!

How to cook pasta in the Italian way? Let’s see some more don’ts!

how not to cook pasta
How NOT to cook pasta: Spaghetti snacks?

Spaghetti as a fancy snack. Should I really comment? Plus, the pasta looks raw again. And to have the spaghetti stay in a place like that, the cook must have surely used some kind of glue, like egg yolk. Or maybe he just let the pasta cool down without sauce and the noodles glued themselves to each other. Either way: no, that is not true Italian spaghetti.

And what about these Spaghetti alla Carbonara? They are wrong on every possible level!

First: let’s hope that this picture comes from a photo shoot and not from a restaurant table. Everything seems so fake, the guanciale looks raw. Now that you make me think about it, that doesn’t really look like guanciale at all, but some kind of simple ham. Then, the Parmigiano just lays there. Every Italian knows that the secret of carbonara is mixing, not just placing the ingredients one over the other. Otherwise, you won’t have a true Carbonara…

How to cook pasta the right way?

Italian Spaghetti | Credit:

And finally: this is how a plate of genuine Italian spaghetti looks like! Notice how the pasta and tomato sauce are mixed together. The spaghetti has absorbed the sauce and looks like it has been flavored from the inside. The pasta is not sparkling white or yellow – a color we associate with hospital food – but has a healthy and yummy reddish look! A sign that the pasta has really “taken” its sauce, as we Italians say.

After having been dished, the spaghetti has been generously covered with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Notice how the cheese is melting: the pasta is hot, as it should be. Now, this is a plate of pasta you really want to call all’Italiana! So how to cook pasta di Semola di Grano Duro?

You must keep in mind, that the true way to cook Italian pasta is

Putting the water to boil and adding salt to it! Spaghetti usually takes about 7 minutes to be cooked al dente. Al dente is the level where the pasta is not overcooked and too soft, but it’s not raw either! Each pasta type has its time to be cooked al dente. If you don’t have that listed on the box, you might as well check quickly online.

Also, important is that you are adding the pasta to the water when it’s already boiling. When you drain it, you don’t leave it to cool down, and you absolutely do not turn off the heat under the pot, cover it with a lid and leave it to soften that way! NO!

Once your pasta and your sauce are ready, you’re mixing them together, while the pasta is hot, and you keep mixing it until the pasta soaks up the sugo (sauce) a little, so it will actually look like in the above picture. This is true for the Carbonara as well! The Spaghetti alla Carbonara has some tricks to be cooked well, kept creamy, and still perfectly done, but it is really easy to make, and you can do it if you follow the right steps!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Italian Way! | Credit:

At serving, you sprinkle the pasta with fresh Parmigiano (Parmesan) cheese or Pecorino Romano or even Gran Padano if you don’t have others available, but that’s it. Italian dishes are simple and delicious, and they are not made to be complicated and exaggerated nor with ingredients, sauce, or anything else! So this is how to cook pasta the right way!

Buon appetito!

Andrea & Paolo

Edited by Helga Dosa & Francesco Paladini

See this video on how to cook spaghetti alla carbonara.


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