Cooking skill level 2: A Bit Crap
by operation_good_guys (edited by spaceman)
Pasta is an often over-rated, mis-cooked dish. Here, operation_good_guys shows you how to do "spaghetti, done simply, done well", which translates roughly as "with butter and seasoning and not much else".
Step 1 - get that water boiling
Start at the beginning and take the pan in your hand and place it on the hob. Now, you have two options, but the quickest and best is to boil the water in the kettle. Otherwise you have to wait for the water to heat up in the pan (boring). So, get the kettle boiling and put the hob on a high heat. Once the water has boiled, fill the pan to about two-thirds.
Here are the ingredients (fig 1), a nice close up of a pan (large) and the filling of the pan with the boiled water from the kettle (figs 2 & 3).
Step 2 - cook spaghetti
So, woah there, your pan of water must be getting quite hot now, right? Better get some spaghetti in there. Now grab a handful (of the spaghetti). No need to weigh it - for one person it's normally about as much as is depicted below (figs 4 to 6). It's as simple as that.
When the water comes to a 'rolling' boil (you know, boiling, but not crazy like), place the spaghetti in the pan, fanning it out for maximum water soakage (see fig 7 below). Add a good handful of sea salt (better than other rock salt, or table salt, as it's sweeter). Once the spaghetti has softened, give it a stir around. Then leave it alone for a bit. Check the spaghetti after about 10 minutes - the colour should go from yellow to translucent to ivory. Tasting is the best way of testing whether it is cooked, but another, more fun option is to lob it at the wall and see if it sticks (see fig 8 - it's cooked alright!).
Step 3 - finish spaghetti
Once you are satisfied that the spaghetti is done (it should be "al dente", which means it has a little bite), put the colander in the sink and pour in spaghetti to drain the water (see fig 9 below). Put the pan back on the hob and add about 100 to 150ml of water. Whilst that is heating up, slice about 25g butter and place in the pan (fig 10 - "about that much"). Let them bubble together (fig 11 - "bubbling together like mates in a sauna"). (The water is necessary to stop the butter burning and/or separating.)
Next, add the drained pasta, let it heat and hiss, and toss it around for about 30 seconds to a minute (you want it to be totally covered in the traditional Italian butter sauce). Season with salt and pepper, serve, eat and enjoy. Figs 12 to 14 show the highlights of this process. (Ideally, you would use a pepper mill, but to get it in shot is easier said than done.)
Finally, here is the finished product, served for the delectation of the chef (fig 15). Optional extras to add are some, fewer or all of finely chopped garlic, chopped parsley or basil, and a little parmesan.
Salt & pepper
About a minute