Al dente is a fancy term for pasta that’s fully cooked, but not overly soft. The phrase is Italian for “to the tooth,” which comes from testing the pasta’s consistency with your teeth. [wikipedia]
How does one cook pasta “just right”? According to the National Pasta Association:
- Boil 4 to 6 quarts of water for one pound of dry pasta. (You can divide this recipe depending on how much pasta you are cooking.)
- Add the pasta with a stir and return the water to a boil.
- Stir the pasta occasionally during cooking.
- Follow the package directions for cooking times. If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking, undercook the pasta by 1/3 of the cooking time specified on the package.
- Taste the pasta to determine if it is done. Perfectly cooked pasta should be “al dente,” or firm to the bite, yet cooked through.
- Drain pasta immediately and follow the rest of the recipe.
So next time you can appear to be cultural at an Italian restaurant by saying to your waiter, “May I have my pasta al dente please?” … Um… actually nevermind. 😉