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Cooking Spaghetti for a Crowd
I've already covered making pasta sauce for a crowd, but thought I'd discuss cooking the actual pasta. If you figure 1/2 cup of pasta, according to the Food Pyramid, you're talking two to four ounces of dry spaghetti before cooking. If you have a large family or friends that are hungry eaters, you know that this may not be enough. And I'll be honest; even I don't eat that little as a main course, more like double or triple that. So when you're needing to cook two or more pounds of spaghetti at a time, you'll need more than just a saucepan.
Things You Can Use
Since pasta of any kind likes water to roll around in, you need to cook it in a pot that allows for plenty of space. Large 12 to 16 quart stockpots will work and water bath canners will give the pasta space. Another option is using a roaster oven. Fill the oven with water 1/2 to 3/4 full, cover and set on the highest setting until the water boils.
Cooking the Pasta
Once you've brought the water to a boil, it's time to add the pasta. When cooking large amounts of spaghetti, it's best to add a handful at a time and stir between additions to keep the pasta from sticking. Once the pot has returned to a boil, start timing. Most dry spaghetti cooks to 'al dente' in 9 to 12 minutes. Check the package for specific cooking times. If the box gives a range, use kitchen tongs to pull out a strand or two for doneness testing at the beginning of the time range.
Plating the Spaghetti
Since you're cooking such a large amount, chances are you will not have a colander large enough to strain the spaghetti in the sink. To work around this problem, grab your kitchen tongs and use them to grab the pasta and transfer to a large bowl and plate. If you hold the pasta over the water for a few seconds, the excess water will drain easily from the strands. Once you have drained the pasta, you can either serve it as is or toss it with pasta sauce.