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You’d think for a product that just requires boiling that pasta would be instant win for virtually nearly every cook. Not so. Here’s 5 easy things you can do to make better pasta.

1. Your iPhone/iPod Touch/Crackberry likely has a timer function. Use it. Read the pasta box. See where it says how long to cook it? This usually a range. Set your mobile device’s timer for the lowest number – if it says “al dente perfection in 9-11 minutes” set the timer for 9 minutes. When the time is up, do a quick test. If it’s not tacky/chewy, it’s ready.

2. Using a tomato sauce? Take a few heaping spoonfuls of the sauce and add it to the water before you start cooking the pasta. This gets flavor introduced into the pasta itself, rather than just throwing a big heap of sauce on at the end. You can use less sauce this way, too, and still have tasty pasta. I tend to use half a cup or so.

3. For the first 30 seconds the pasta is in the boiling water, stir it relentlessly and quickly. This will do more for your pasta than nearly anything else.

4. Use a lot of water in a large pot. Most bad pasta comes from being cooked in a tiny pot with insufficient water.

5. Boil your water. By boiling, I mean 212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees Celsius. Yeah, I know you’re in a hurry and you want to get dinner on the table fast, but getting the pasta in the water before it’s boiling just leads to bad pasta. Boil your water. Easy way to tell? If you stir the water, the bubbling doesn’t stop for more than a second at most.

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