No, Your Spaghetti Doesn’t Have to Be al Dente: 5 Pasta Myths, Debunked

After publishing an article debunking five commonly held kitchen myths last week, I got questions — and a surprising number of pleas — about pasta. I was asked to settle long-simmering disputes between grandparents and grandchildren, roommates, and husbands and wives of 50-plus years.

The myths that generated the most conflict were oldies: that pasta should be rinsed after cooking (false: the starch helps gives pasta its special mouthfeel) and that you should always add olive oil to pasta cooking water (false: stirring is a better way to keep it from sticking, see below).

Here’s a closer look at even more pasta beliefs and misapprehensions.

Even More Pasta Recipes at NYT Cooking

Spaghetti Carbonara | Baked Tomato Pasta With Harissa and Halloumi | Braised Broccoli Pasta | Gochujang Shrimp Pasta | One-Pot Tortellini With Prosciutto and Peas | Pasta con Palta (Creamy Avocado Pesto Pasta) | Basil-Butter Pasta | Mortadella Carbonara | Manicotti | Creamy, Lemony Pasta | Spicy Chorizo Pasta | Broccoli Dill Pasta | Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta With Sage and Walnuts | Ricotta Pasta alla Vodka | Black Pepper and Onion Spaghetti

Truth or myth: Pasta should always be cooked al dente or firm to the tooth.

The source of this myth seems to be transcontinental confusion. The American way of serving fully cooked pasta with sauce dolloped on top is different from the Italian way of serving pasta and sauce combined. In Italian recipes, the pasta is cooked twice: first in boiling water, and then again with seasonings or sauce, so leaving it slightly undercooked — al dente — in the first stage makes sense. You can always add more sauce or cooking water to finish cooking the pasta, but you can’t go back if it’s overcooked.

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