This Is The Ideal Moment To Add Dried Pasta To Water

You've had a long day, and you're hungry. So you decide to have a quick and easy pasta night, and pull out a package of dry pasta from your pantry, along with that premade jar of pasta sauce — hey, that's what it's there for, right? You can feel the hanger setting in as you're not so patiently waiting for that pot of water to boil, so you decide to take a shortcut and dump the pasta in before the water boils — surely that extra minute or two can't possibly make that much of a difference? You follow the suggested cooking time on the box for that perfect al dente pasta, only to end up with a mushy clump when you go to strain your pasta.

Turns out, that extra minute or two did make a big difference. If you don't want your pasta to end up a mushy mess, there actually is an ideal moment to add the dried pasta to the water, and it has to do with how the pasta interacts with boiling water.

Make sure the water is at a full boil before adding dried pasta

When dry pasta is placed in water, it starts releasing starch, chef Palak Patel explained to HuffPost. As starch dissolves in the water, the pasta starts to break down, which can lead to a mushy texture. However, intense heat, like what you would find in boiling water, can prevent mushy pasta from developing by "setting" the outer coating of the pasta, according to What's Cooking America. That's why it's important to wait until you have a fast and rolling boil before you add the pasta — adding new ingredients, including pasta, causes the water temperature to drop, but water that is already at a rolling boil will still be hot enough to set and cook and pasta properly.

If you want to speed up the process, cover the pot of water with a lid to help it boil faster, but don't try to save time by adding pasta before the water is at a full boil. Other pasta mistakes to avoid? Not using a big enough pot or not using enough water (at least four quarts of water per pound of pasta), which will affect the starch to water ratio and could also lead to mushy pasta that stick together. Don't forget to salt the water after it comes to a boil, but before you add the pasta. Stir the pasta right after you add it to the pot. And never ever add oil to your pasta water.