1. Use Plenty of Water—or Stir Often
As pasta boils, it leaches starches into the cooking water, which can cause the noodles to stick together. The easiest way to cut down on sticking is to boil pasta in a generous amount of water—4 quarts per pound of dried pasta—to dilute the starches. However, if you don’t have a pot large enough for all the water, you can reduce the water by half and stir the pasta frequently during cooking.
2. Salt the Water
Salting the cooking water ensures that seasoning gets into the pasta, not just on it. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to 4 quarts of water (or 1½ teaspoons to 2 quarts), making sure to stir well so that the salt will dissolve.
3. Skip the Oil
Since it merely sits on top of the cooking water, adding a splash of olive oil to the pot before adding the pasta doesn’t prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cooks—though it may help keep the water from boiling over. To prevent the pasta from sticking together, simply stir it for a minute or two after adding it to the boiling water.
4. Check for Doneness Often
We recommend ignoring the cooking times listed on packaging, which are almost always too long and result in mushy, overcooked pasta. Tasting the pasta is the best way to check for doneness. We prefer pasta cooked al dente, meaning that it has a bit of resistance in the center when bitten.
5. Reserve Some Water
Before draining the pasta, reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, which is flavorful, somewhat salty, and starchy. It can be used to loosen a thick sauce without diluting the sauce’s body or flavor as much as plain water would.
6. Don't Assume Fresh Pasta is Always a Good Sub for Dried
Because fresh pasta is made from eggs and white wheat flour, it has a tender, delicate texture, which makes it less versatile than dried pasta. The latter is made from water and semolina flour, which gives it a stronger gluten structure and a sturdier texture. Use these guidelines when deciding whether to substitute fresh pasta for dried.