It was probably one of the first things you learned how to do, but a pro can always learn new tricks, so hopefully this is something you can use to bring out your inner nonna.
Salt your goddamn water. If you weren’t already doing this then you weren’t really making pasta. It is impossible to season things cohesively after you’ve already cooked them, so it’s important to get that briny infusion beforehand. I’m not talking about literally cooking your pasta in sea water, but a teaspoon of salt in the pot will go a long way in enhancing those flavors and in helping your water boil quicker.
Al Dente! Al Dente! Al Dente! This is how pasta should be consumed. The noodle shouldn’t fall apart in your mouth, but it also shouldn’t be impossible to chew. Finding that sweet spot isn’t that difficult, but it does require patience or just basic reading skills. If you look on most pasta packages, the directions are usually right on front as to how long it takes to get the noodles to al dente, which is usually around 10-12 minutes. Don’t just wing it — sometimes instructions are important.
When your noodles are finished cooking, do not remove them from the water and just leave them out to dry! How shameful of you! What did those poor noodles ever do to deserve that? Instead, after straining them, give them a nice drizzle of olive oil to keep them moist, or, better yet, leave the noodles in the water until you are ready to serve or dress them and then use tongs to pull out your portions.
One thing many newbies do with pasta is simply plate the noodles and then spoon some sauce on top and serve it. This is okay if you’re feeding dogs in an alley with an accordion like Chef Tony in “Lady and the Tramp,” but, if not, you should really finish cooking your noodles in sauce before serving. Whether it’s store-bought sauce or your own concoction, the noodles should be taken straight from the strainer to a saucepan to be blended and coated with the sauce over a low heat. This helps infuse flavors properly and looks fabulous and classy if you’re trying to impress a guest.
If you can manage to include these steps in your pasta routine I can guarantee you’ll begin to feel like a real chef in no time.