1. Not using a big enough pot.
It’ll allow you to cook your pasta in enough water so that it can move around freely and avoid clumping up.
2. Not salting the water.
You don’t actually need to salt the water before it boils, but you should salt it before you put the pasta in. Otherwise, your pasta will be bland. Don’t be afraid to really go for it. The amount of salt you’ll need depends on your taste, but remember that only a minimal amount of the salt you put in the pot will actually get into the pasta. Here’s a good guide to know exactly how much salt you should use.
3. Not stirring your pasta immediately as it enters the water.
The first couple of minutes of cooking are the most crucial part to make sure your pasta isn’t going to stick together. So get your pasta submerged as quickly as possible and get it moving immediately.
4. And not stirring the pasta regularly throughout the cooking process.
It may seem tedious and annoying, but it’s better to do it then than have a big clump of pasta at the end.
5. Not reserving some of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
If you’re making a sauce, use some of the leftover starchy pasta water to give your sauce a nice silky texture without thinning it out too much. Just save a cup or two of pasta water — and then add it to the sauce a few tablespoons at a time. You probably won’t need the full cup, but better to save too much than not enough.
6. Not checking if the pasta is done early enough.
When you put the pasta in, set a timer for two minutes before the time mentioned on the box. This is a great time to start checking, and most importantly tasting, to see if your pasta is done.
7. Not draining your pasta immediately after it’s done cooking.
The pasta should be al dente, which means it should be cooked but still have a little bit of bite and not be completely soft. Draining the pasta then will keep it from overcooking once you add it to the sauce.
9. Leaving the pasta to rest in the colander.
You should add your pasta to the sauce as soon as it’s drained. The longer it sits in the colander, the more it’ll stick together.
10. Not knowing which sauce to pair which each type of pasta.
The pairing of pasta with sauce is of course a matter of taste, but these are a few guidelines that are good to follow if you really want to use your sauce to its full potential. For instance, a light, textured sauce like pesto goes especially well with rotini and fusilli, because the sauce can really cling to the twists of the pasta.
11. Cooking all the ingredients at once when you make a one-pot recipe.
One-pot pasta cooking is not traditional but if you’re pressed for time and want to limit the number of dishes, it can be a great solution. Cooking everything in the same pot doesn’t always mean cooking everything at the same time. Do things in stages to avoid certain things being undercooked, while others are overcooked. For instance, if you’re including a meat, brown it first in a little bit of olive oil with some salt and pepper. Once it’s well caramelized, take it out of the pot and put it back in at the very end.
12. And not using the best type of pasta for one-pot pasta meals.
Your pot is already way more crowded than usual, so make sure to pick shorter pasta so that it’s easier to stir from the get-go.