When dry pasta is placed in water, it starts releasing starch, chef Palak Patel explained to HuffPost. As starch dissolves in the water, the pasta starts to break down, which can lead to a mushy texture. However, intense heat, like what you would find in boiling water, can prevent mushy pasta from developing by “setting” the outer coating of the pasta, according to What’s Cooking America. That’s why it’s important to wait until you have a fast and rolling boil before you add the pasta — adding new ingredients, including pasta, causes the water temperature to drop, but water that is already at a rolling boil will still be hot enough to set and cook and pasta properly.

If you want to speed up the process, cover the pot of water with a lid to help it boil faster, but don’t try to save time by adding pasta before the water is at a full boil. Other pasta mistakes to avoid? Not using a big enough pot or not using enough water (at least four quarts of water per pound of pasta), which will affect the starch to water ratio and could also lead to mushy pasta that stick together. Don’t forget to salt the water after it comes to a boil, but before you add the pasta. Stir the pasta right after you add it to the pot. And never ever add oil to your pasta water.

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