How to Make a Simple Pasta with Spinach & Herbs
Plus Pasta Making Tips For Perfect Pasta
When you think of cooking pasta, the first thing you typically do is throw a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a full, rolling boil. This is perfect for dried pasta but fresh pasta is too delicate to be cooked above a slow boil.
So now is a good time to discuss the “correct” way to boil pasta and then throw in a recipe for Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach and Herbs to illustrate the process.
First, the lesson:
Plan on using 1 quart of water per each 4 oz of dried pasta. For one pound of pasta, use 1 gallon of water. You do not need to measure this, just make sure that you have enough water in the pot that the pasta has room to move and expand and not get stuck together.
One of the biggest mistakes home cooks make when it comes to cooking pasta is not using enough water. It is imperative you have a pot big enough
Heat the water over high heat with the lid on. The water will boil much more quickly if all the heat energy isn’t dissipating into the kitchen.
Once the water has come to a full boil, add salt. If you add salt while the water is still cold, the salt can sit on the bottom of your pan and cause pitting. Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean.
Do not add oil to your pot. The oil can coat the pasta and keep it from absorbing your sauce fully.
Drop the pasta into the pot all at once, and let the water come back up to a full boil. You might have to adjust the heat a little to prevent boil-over.
Stir the pasta once or twice, and then let cook in the boiling water until it is very flexible, but still just a bit firm in the center: al dente. This can be done according to your taste and could take from 3-10 minutes, depending on the type of dried pasta you are cooking.
Drain the pasta, always reserving some of your cooking liquid to add to your sauce. This starchy water will help to thicken your sauce and provide a very silky mouth feel.
I never rinse my pasta unless I need it to be cold for making pasta salad, for example.
I always return the pasta to the cooking pot and finish the pasta and sauce together.
For more tips on cooking pasta, see my 10 Pasta Cooking Tips
Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach and Herbs
- 1 pound dried angel hair pasta
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
- ½ pound fresh baby spinach
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water this step will open up the flavors of the dried garlic
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ tablespoon fresh nutmeg grated
- 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon verbena if available, optional - minced
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- ½ cup pine nuts toasted
- Bring 6 quarts water to a full boil. Salt the water.
- Add the pasta all at once. Stir gently to submerge. Reduce the heat slightly to prevent boil-over, and boil pasta according to the packaging until al dente.
- When the pasta is done, remove and reserve ½ cup of starchy water the pasta cooked in.
- Drain pasta and return the pasta back to the pot you cooked it in. Turn the heat up to medium-high.
- Add the reserved liquid, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir gently but thoroughly until the spinach is wilted and the sauce has reduced and emulsified, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and fold in the grated cheese and the minced herbs. Correct seasonings.
- Plate and top each serving with some toasted pine nuts.