When cooking pasta use a lot of water, usually 5 quarts for each pound.
Use a high heat and bring the water to a boil then add 2 tablespoons of salt and keep it at a full boil for a few minutes.
When you add the pasta, stir it frequently using a wooden spoon. If a tablespoon of oil is added, it will prevent the water from boiling over and will aid to help the pasta from sticking together. To avoid the use of oil, stir the pasta often and lower the heat to prevent it from boiling over.
The pasta can be fresh or dry, made with or without eggs and because of the different types of flour or semolina used in making it, the cooking time varies.
Of course the best judge is the person “che cala la pasta”- in English: that lowers the pasta (into the boiling water).
The egg noodles or fresh pasta have to be tested as soon as it starts to float.
The pasta that requires baking has to be cooked in half of the time recommended by the manufactures because it continues to cook in the oven.
The dry pasta usually has the manufacture’s directions on the box but 5 minutes after it starts to boil test for doneness and make sure it is always al dente.
Most of the time we suggest to drain the pasta 2 or 3 minutes less than suggested in the directions, because after the pasta is drained it should be returned to the pot where it was cooked to be tossed with a drizzle of oil or a piece of butter and half of the sauce you will be using. This operation is done on a medium heat and the pasta continues to cook - this is the reason for shortening the cooking time. When adding cheese to pasta, remove the pot from heat.
Never add cold water or rinse pasta in cold water unless you will be using the pasta for a salad or to bake. The cold water will suspend the cooking process and cool the pasta for salads or it will resume cooking if is baked.
In my family and in Palermo, when pasta is transferred into the serving dishes it is first topped with grated cheese and then covered with sauce. Cheese and red hot pepper is also usually served on the side.