When I was in Rome last year for a Mediterranean cruise with my siblings (brothers and sisters) and their families, we went to a restaurant that served authentic (real, genuine) Italian food. One of my sisters-in-law (wives of brothers) said the pasta didn't taste good. I told her it was cooked al dente, which is how pasta should be cooked.
The Italian word "al dente" means cooking food to a stage that it is neither too soft nor too hard. The food should be firm, not mushy. The word "mushy" means soft and not firm. I prefer food, especially pasta, to be al dente, not mushy. No one in Italy would eat mushy pasta. In Italy, pasta has to be al dente. I am not much of a cook. If you are "not much of" something, it means you are not very good at it. Even though I am not much of a cook, it is not hard to cook pasta al dente. I just follow the cooking instructions on the package. Usually, cooking pasta al dente requires cooking it in boiling water for about eight minutes.
After I cook pasta al dente, I drain away the water, add pasta sauce and cook it on low heat for about another minute. Sometimes I add minced beef that is already cooked, or mushrooms and black olives. Al dente pasta also tastes good with just olive oil, basil and diced (cut into small pieces) tomatoes. Pasta pairs well with Italian red wines such as Chianti but white wines such as Pinot Grigio also go well with pasta. But always remember when you eat Italian food, you should relax, eat slowly, and enjoy it. That is the Italian way!
香港有許多餐廳都不知道煮意大利麵的正確方法。煮意大利麵的完美之道，是將它煮至al dente，這是意大利的正宗製法。然而，香港許多餐廳，尤其是有供應意大利麵的茶餐廳，甚至連al dente是甚麼意思也不曉得。他們奉上的意大利麵往往是糊狀的（mushy）。
意大利語al dente意即將食物煮得爽口彈牙、有嚼勁。食物該是有韌度的，而不是糊狀的（mushy）。Mushy解作柔軟而不夠堅挺。我偏好食物是有嚼勁（al dente）而不是糊狀的（mushy），尤其是意大利麵。在意大利，沒有人會吃糊狀的（mushy）意大利麵；在意大利，麵食一定要有嚼勁（al dente）。
我不太會（not much of）烹飪。若你是 "not much of" something，即是說你在那方面不太在行。雖然我不太會（not much of）烹飪，但要將意大利麵煮得有嚼勁（al dente），也不是難事。我只需要跟隨包裝上的烹調說明。通常來說，煮一個有嚼勁的（al dente）意大利麵需要放在沸水中煮約八分鐘。
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧