Everyone has a different way of cooking pasta-- ranging from straight boiling to pressure cooking. Some people even put raw pasta in the oven with the sauce, like lasagna, and let it cook itself. I've tried it and don't like it. Maybe it was the recipe. Pasta comes in so many shapes; try them all for variety.
Here's how I make perfect pasta, fast, easy and tasty.
Put water on to boil. Don't skimp on the amount; it prevents the pasta from sticking. (Note # 1) If you're in a rush, use water as hot as possible from the faucet.
Add a clove or two of garlic, and/or salsa seasoning or a hot pepper or two, for added flavor. Add a tablespoon or two of oil; it helps keep the pasta from sticking to itself, reduces boil-over and makes cleanup easier. Add salt (Note #2).
When water comes to a rolling boil, add pasta little by little, stirring constantly. I like to break spaghetti, linguine and other long pastas in half; it makes cooking and eating easier. Continue to stir gently until water comes back to a full rolling boil. Reduce heat slightly; water should continue to boil lightly. Cook to taste according to package instructions, depending if you want it to be "al dente" or tender. (Note #3)
For salads: Drain off hot water and immediately cover pasta with cold water. After a minute, change the water and refill with more cold water. The idea is to stop the cooking. (Note #4) As soon as it cools, drain very well. Stir in a tablespoon of oil or the dressing you will use on the salad, to discourage sticking.
For hot pasta: Drain immediately in a sieve or colander. Wipe out the pan. Return to the fire, and as soon as it is dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive, grapeseed or canola oil. Heat on high until shimmering but not smoking. Tip pan to distribute. Add drained pasta all at once (Note #5). Stir to dry down the pasta and coat with oil. Turn off the fire, and combine with sauce immediately, or serve "as is" for each person to add their own sauce.
Note #1: If you like your pasta "al dente" or firm, you can use less water than if you prefer it soft, which brings out more sticky starch and evaporates more water.
Note #2: If you're on a low-salt or salt-free diet, adding more seasonings to the water, especially garlic, gives the pasta flavor that salt usually brings out.
Note #3: For salad, be careful not to overcook or you may end up with salad mush by the time you get it cooled and dressed.
Note #4: If you're in a real hurry, after the initial cooling process, place pasta in a shallow dish and cover with a tray of ice cubes. After ice melts, re-drain the cooled pasta and proceed.
Note #5: This drying-down process helps the sauce cling to the pasta and increases the flavor.