I may be composing this because the servers for Diablo 3 are busy, and my audiobook for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (bless you, Audible, for letting me buy it for a single credit) isn't finished downloading yet. Maybe. Don't judge me.
Anyway, one of my bachelor friends asks me for cooking advice occasionally (actually, this is a lie; I get asked for advice from a lot of people), so I figured I'd lay this out in plain terms.
1. Buy whole grain pasta. Stop buying the enriched stuff; the whole grain tastes just as good (better, in fact) and most stores (even here in the hinterlands of the Midwest) have their own brand of whole grain pasta, so cost isn't an issue anymore. Besides, storebought pasta is like a dollar. Splurge and buy the kind that's $1.08.
2. If you're doing a cream sauce/cheese sauce/anything heavier than olive oil or marinara (or various Asian sauces like lo mein sauce, teriyaki, etc.), get a pasta that's ridged (rigate is usually the word on the box). The ridges are there for a reason, and that reason is to hold the sauce to the pasta.
3. SALT THE WATER. If you're asking yourself, "Should I salt the water?" you should first ask yourself, "Am I cooking pasta?" That's like asking if you should use soap in the shower. YES.
4. Use the biggest pot you have. The pasta needs room to move. Using a pot just big enough to hold your pasta and some water barely covering the top is insufficient.
5. DO NOT PUT THE PASTA IN THE POT UNTIL THE WATER IS BOILING. Don't do it! If you're not sure if the water is boiling yet, WAIT. It'll get there.
6. Cook your pasta by the package directions, and only cook it until the lowest time given. For example, if your pasta says cook 6-8 minutes, cook it 6 minutes. Period. Any less and it's crunchy, any more and it's mushy. These people make the stuff, they should know the minimum cooking time.
7. Don't wander off. Don't start reading a book in the other room, don't go sell your goods to the merchants in your game, just stay put. Stir your pasta occasionally, and settle down. It's usually less than 10 minutes. If you can't chill out in one room for 10 minutes, you shouldn't be cooking on the stove. Use the microwave, and resign yourself to eating a lot of sodium-packed processed food.
8. Drain your pasta, but don't rinse it unless you're serving it cold. If you're making macaroni salad, rinse it. If you're gonna eat it immediately, don't.
9. SEASON YOUR FOOD. This is NOT optional. Grab some herbs and spices and toss it onto the pasta before you sauce it. At the very least, sprinkle it with black pepper. If you don't know how much to use (I eyeball it. Couple shakes, voila), start out with 1/2 teaspoon herbs. You can add more later. 1/4 teaspoon pepper or garlic powder. Stir it around to make sure you don't end up with one reallllllly peppery noodle.
10. Sauce and taste. Once you have stuff sauced, your spices are on there, TASTE IT BEFORE SERVING IT. That's when you can say, "Hmm, this herb mix is tasty. Need more!"