The pasta of choice for tossing with seafood, linguine is a flat, thin noodle. How much time it takes to cook linguine depends greatly on whether it is fresh or dried, and to a lesser extent on the manufacturer. If you like your linguine al dente, meaning with a bit of chewiness, use the minimum time recommended by the maker. More tender linguine comes cooking for the maximum amount of time.
Finessing the Fresh
Fresh pasta cooks in as little as two minutes after the water comes back to a boil. When you're ready to cook fresh linguine, remove the package from the refrigerator and boil a large stockpot of water. After uncoiling the bundles, drop the linguine into the pot. Most fresh linguine shouldn't be in the water for longer than three minutes. Begin testing sample strands of linguine at the minimum time recommended on the package, then drain it in a colander when it reaches the consistency you like.
Coddling with Cream
You'll find fresh linguine bundled, often in plastic packages, in the refrigerated section at the supermarket, and they're best cooked within a few days of purchase. In general, fresh pastas, including linguine, are often reserved for creamy or cheesy sauces. Tomato-based sauces, or those based on olive oil, may not adhere to fresh noodles as well as creamy sauces do. Many toppings can be made in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. Toss cooked fresh linguine with cheese, chicken strips and spinach, for example, or with a creamy salmon sauce.
Doing up Dried
Dried linguine cooks in about nine minutes for al dente pasta, and in about 10 for more tender linguine. Begin timing it after you've added the dried pasta to a large stockpot of boiling water, stirred it well to incorporate it into the water, and let the water come back to a boil. A sample strand tested after the minimum time recommended on the package will let you know whether it has reached the texture you prefer. Once it is ready, drain the linguine in a colander and top with sauce, or toss the cooked strands with oil, butter or broth.
Pairing the Pasta
You'll find dried linguine in boxes in the same aisle as spaghetti and other familiar dried pastas at the supermarket. Cooked dried linguine works well as a nest for seafood, such as poached clams still in their shells and drizzled with a wine-broth sauce. Or toss linguine with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and whole cooked shrimp, along with a scattering of fresh herbs. Most toppings can be prepared while the water boils and the linguine cooks. Dried linguine is also sturdy enough to fill the shoes of spaghetti or fettuccine, if you have a craving for marinara or Alfredo-style sauces.