al dente definition | how to cook pasta al dente

Al dente definition

Pasta or other foods cooked this way means that it has been cooked tender but slightly firm, but not hard. Italian for ‘to the tooth’.
Learn how to cook pasta al dente perfectly in the video below.

The expression is most commonly used to describe pasta that has been served at this degree of firmness and is generally considered to be the most widely preferred.

It can be used to describe any food for which the bite sensation is particular, such as rice and tender-crisp vegetables.
None of us like foods that are too mushy.

The expression should be considered laudatory, and in no way refers to foods being underdone or too hard.

How long does it take to cook pasta al dente

Check the pasta package for pasta cooking time.

If no time is given, follow these rules-of-thumb, but be careful to check the pasta often for doneness as it cooks:

  • Fresh pasta –
    Especially egg pasta (fettucine, tagliatelle, lasagna):
    Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Thin –
    Dried durum wheat (eggless) pasta (spaghettini, shells, rotini):
    Cook fo 6 to 9 minutes.
  • Dried spaghetti –
    Is generally 8 to 9 minutes, depending on the brand and thickness.
  • Thick dried –
    durum wheat (eggless) pasta (penne, ziti, tortigioni, trofie):
    12 to 15 minutes.

How to cook pasta al dente perfectly

  1. Fill a pot with 4 cups/1 litre of water per 100 grams serving of pasta, cover it, and set it to Boil over high heat.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, remove the cover and add 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt (a little less if it’s fine-grained) per litre of water.
    In terms of saltiness, it should resemble sea water.

    This will season your pasta — and it’s the only chance in your cooking process to do so.

  3. When the water comes back to a rolling boil, add the pasta and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon to separate the pieces.
  4. Stir the pasta occasionally as it cooks, to keep the pieces from sticking to each other or to the pot.
  5. A minute before the estimated pasta cooking time is up, remove a piece of the pasta to check for doneness.
    You want an al dente, or chewy “to the tooth” texture — not soft, limp pasta.
    Bite the pasta to check.
  6. Test again every 30 seconds or so, and as soon as the broken piece is a uniform, translucent yellow, drain the pasta.
  7. Toss the pasta in your sauce and serve.

    Gordon Ramsey cooking pasta al dente

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