Angel hair may be one of the most finicky dried pastas to cook, because one minute, it’s perfectly al dente, and the next minute, it’s a congealed, overcooked mess. As with roasting (not burning) nuts, boiling angel hair pasta is a learned skill that you can master if you follow the tips below and give up the practice of just eyeballing it.

1. Boil water in a large stock pot. Successfully cooked pasta begins here. Find the largest pot in your kitchen, preferably a stock pot. Fill it one-half to two-thirds with water and let it come to a boil. For each four cups of water, add one tablespoon Kosher salt. Why do you need so much water? The pasta needs room to dance in the boiling water. Having sufficient space means you don’t need to break up the pasta into smaller bits and it won’t stick together.

2. Cook one minute less than the package instructs. When the water is boiling, carefully drop in the pasta (about a pound) and set a timer for about one minute less than it directs on the package. We’re aiming for al dente pasta, meaning pasta that still has some texture and a slight chew. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and start checking the pasta early for doneness.

3. Toss in the sauce for the remaining minute. While the pasta is cooking, be sure your sauce is heated through in a pan next to you. Another reason you want to take the pasta out early is because you’ll be tossing it with sauce, and this liquid further cooks the pasta. Swirl the pasta around in the sauce for roughly 30 seconds to a minute until fully coated. Try the pasta for doneness, then serve immediately.

Bonus tip: If your sauce isn’t quite ready but your pasta is, run it under cold water to halt the cooking process. Once fully cooled and drained, drizzle the pasta with olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

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(Photos via Brittany Griffin / Brit + Co)