It may look simple in cooking videos, but there’s a little more to cooking pasta than you think – once you get the pasta in the water, it’s all about making sure that you get the perfect bite. Not too soft, and not too crunchy, but just the right firmness inside every strand.

Here’s how you can cook the perfect pasta every time:

1. Use a large pot.

No, don’t break the pasta strands to solve your problem! What you need is a big pot with enough room for the pasta to move around, and this is when the stockpot in your kitchen really comes in handy.

You should also get a lot of water in the stockpot and actually let it boil first before adding the pasta in. Not doing so will result in undercooked strands of pasta.

2. Salt the water beforehand.

Starch tastes best when given a generous hint of salt, and you want at least a tablespoon of it in the water. Once the water is salted and brought to a boil, only then can you start adding the pasta.

3. Don’t stop stirring!

Don’t take your eyes off that pasta for even a minute – you need to keep stirring the pasta every now and then to keep the strands from clumping. Once the strands have softened after placing it in the boiling water, turn them gently to allow the rest to boil in the stockpot.

4. Test for two minutes.

The cooking time on the packaging isn’t gospel. After about two minutes, check if the pasta is done by fishing out a single strand using your utensil of choice. Let it cool, and then bite.

Ideally, your pasta strand should be springy and chewy, and yet still firm on the inside. This is called “al dente”. If you’re not confident, you’re better off having pasta that’s just past the point of being raw.

5. Save that pasta water!

Once you’ve cooked the pasta to your liking, save a single cup of that pasta water before draining it into a colander.

This starchy water works amazingly well when it comes to binding the sauce and the pasta together, and if you happen to have a thick pasta sauce, this will break it down to make it less likely to clump at the bottom.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add the sauce. Don’t rinse the pasta with cold water – this will only wash away the starches that lets the sauce bind to them!

If you’re worried about adding too much or too little pasta sauce, the trick is to keep it separate and add only a little at a time for every serving.

Add toppings, serve, and enjoy!