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Help - my pasta keeps sticking! Any recs?

I've been buying the same grocery store brand pasta (Hannaford) for a few years now. It's been just fine for my needs, but for the past few months it's been sticking to itself like crazy! I'll put it in the pot of hot water, and tons of strands just stick to each other. I'm used to getting an errant one or two, but we're talking a good 1/4 of the pasta sticking lately and it's not at all palatable.

I think it might be the pasta brand, so any good brands out there? I'm up to technique suggestions too.

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  1. First and foremost, use lots and lots of water, about a gallon per pound of pasta. Grocery store brands of pasta tend to be very starchy and need the extra water. Second, stir the pasta well for a few seconds right after you put the pasta in the water. Both of these should help out. If you want to try a different pasta brand, I'd go with Ronzoni (I think it's known as American Beauty out here in the West), I get great results from it every time.

    1. yea.. lots of water, make sure its at a complete boil before you add the pasta, and stir for a minute to make sure they don't stick.

      1. high heat, big pot of salted water at full boil when you add the pasta, and then stir until the water comes back up to a boil. stir a few more times while cooking, drain but don't rinse. dress the pasta with sauce immediately. i usually dump the sauce into the still hot pot, and toss everything in that.

        i'd also pony up the few extra pennies for a hard semolina brand like ronzoni or barilla.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          thanks hotoynoodle - I think I'm just going to pony up and buy some non-grocery store pasta. I've been doing everything else here like everyone says - big pot 'o water and tons of stirring. Must just be the cheap pasta!

          1. re: yumcha

            If you've used the brand before and it's been fine...maybe they changed the recipe? Does it still say 100% semolina on the box?

        2. I hope these aren't too obvious: try cooking for less time. Stir while cooking (especially while water is returning to the boil). Add ~1TB of oil to the water.

          3 Replies
          1. re: guilty

            oil in the water does nothing. oil and water don't mix, it just floats around in the pot.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Doesn't a little bit of oil in the water change the water's surface tension thus reducing the occurance of boil-overs from the starch? This would in turn reduce the need for so much stirring after the water comes back to a rolling boil (technically, if you have enough water, the rolling boil would be sufficient to keep the pasta moving)

              1. re: djohnson22

                You always need to stir a bit, and the oil does not help in that regard. You won't boil over if you have the correct pot and water amount and don't cover tightly.

          2. I always use cold water, add a little olive oil and salt to water and bring water to a rapid boil. Stir as necessary to keep from sticking. If you don't eat it immediately you can rinse it in cold water and cool down to room temp before you refrigerate it. We spray our pasta with "Pam" at work to keep from sticking before service.

            1. Works for me and I boil 2 cases at a time at work.

              1. I agree, Water must be at a rolling boil before you dump the past in and stir.

                1. Oil in the water creates a slick coating on pasta. It keeps it from sticking but also makes it impossible for pasta to grab sauce. Just don't do it...

                  1. Use Barilla or Ronzoni--- spread it out and stir into lots of salted boiling water
                    ---no oil...

                    Cook till almost done in the water, then finish it off in the sauce...

                    Never fails...

                    1. I use Barilla or De Cecco and haven't had sticking problems with either.

                      1. Barilla and Ronzoni have never stuck for me, either (I always use lots of water).

                        If you've been buying the same brand for years, and you're cooking it the same way you did when it didn't stick, I'd bet something in their recipe changed. Even if they just started using the same kind of wheat from another source, this might be enough to alter the way the finished product comes out.

                        1. I make sure that the pot of water keeps boiling, by putting the lid on it if it is "simmering down" - and also make sure to stir occasionally during the first minutes. De Cecco is our "house brand" of choice. But, as another poster suggests, if you've not had a problem in the past, it could be that the ingredients have changed somehow.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MMRuth

                            De CECCO is also the brand we use at home. I've tried others, and De CECCO is our hands-down favourite.

                          2. I definitely think that, as a rule, any of the Italian pastas are best (and luckily, even spendier brands of pasta are still very cheap). I follow Marcella Hazan's directions: lots of water on high, add salt only when the water is coming to a boil, make sure it reboils, then add pasta. Stir a few times duting cooking proces, cook al dente. I never add oil & never rinse pasta with cold water & it works great (though there's always some oil in my sauce).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JenMarie66

                              Most Italian pastas use North American wheat, btw. If you are not buying artisanal pasta with a rough texture, US-made Ronzoni often wins taste/texture tests over Italian industrial pastas.

                              Anyway, to echo above:

                              1. Lots of water at a full boil.
                              2. Don't be stingy with the salt; cooking pasta in unsalted water is wrong, as the pasta needs a bit of salt to make its flavor full. And the point of any pasta dish is actually the pasta, with the sauce as counterpoint.
                              3. No oil.

                              Finally, don't throw all that pasta cooking water away. Save a cup of it before draining to add to your sauce and complete cooking the pasta in the sauce with it, reducing it back down. The starchy water helps the sauce glaze the pasta properly.