The #1 Trick for the Perfect Spaghetti

If you aren't salting your pasta water, you're doing it wrong.
straining pasta in sink

If the noodles you cook at home never seem to be as good as the ones at an Italian restaurant, you might be missing an important step in the pasta-making process. Chefs agree: You should always salt your pasta water, which is really the only secret to cooking perfect spaghetti every time.

There's not much you can do to season pasta before you add the sauce, but salting the water is an important way to make your pasta more flavorful. There's nothing worse than bland, soggy pasta, and salting the water is key to keeping your noodles tasting great.

"When cooking your pasta, season your water so that it is salty like the sea," says Executive Chef Bryan Forgione at Buddy V's Ristorante in Las Vegas.

Why should you salt pasta water?

It's all about the flavor. "If the water is bland, your pasta will also be bland, and your dish will fall short," Forgione says.

There's a reason salting pasta water works so well with dry pasta, too. Pasta dough isn't made with much salt, which makes adding it into the water the perfect step.

"Seasoning your water is the first step. Generally, there isn't a lot of salt in the actual dough itself, as it can make it tough. However, seasoning your pasta water really is a game-changer," says Brand Chef Carlos Calderon at restaurant chain North Italia. "Finishing the pasta in the sauce is also key. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and helps bind the dish together. It also allows the sauce to permeate the pasta and really make the dish shine."

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What are some other spaghetti cooking tips?

"Don't overfill the pot with pasta because you want to have enough room to stir the pasta and also allow for expansion of the pasta," says Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef and Recipe Developer at HelloFresh. Sidoti also advises against rinsing your pasta when it's done boiling because that "will take all the starch off and prevent the sauce from sticking."

Another important step is to stir your pasta water to keep the noodles from sticking together. Stirring also keeps noodles from sticking to the pot.

And to make sure you don't end up with overcooked noodles, you'll want to watch how long they're in the boiling water. "Cook pasta for half the length of the suggested cooking time," says Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani. "From there, continue the cooking process by letting the pasta simmer in the pasta sauce of your choice, and by adding a little bit of broth at a time."

Armed with that salty pasta water, you're ready to up your spaghetti game.

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Meghan De Maria
Meghan De Maria is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food, product, and restaurant coverage. Read more
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