This article originally appeared in Food52.
Nobody likes limp, lifeless pasta.
If you don’t believe me, you could invite my friend Lauren over for dinner and overcook the bucatini. But don’t come crying to me when she gives you her “dente, dente, dente” lecture (essentially just a series of emphatic hand motions and a look of blistering disappointment, which is much worse than it sounds).
Or, you could take my word for it, and cook your noodles just until tender with a slight bite, not a moment longer, then finish them in their sauce with a splash of starchy cooking water and finely grated Parm.
But beyond these well-accepted pasta truths—never boil to a mushy pulp, and finish everything together—the topic of how best to fine-tune your noodle routine starts to get murky as the cooking water itself. Namely, the matters of how much water to add, and how much salt to include.