What is the correct water to pasta ratio?

  • I have heard one should use a lot of water when cooking pasta; how much water should I use?

    @roux, @attila, I disagree that it is a repeat question. It turns out that the **answer** to this question exists in another Question (thanks, roux), but the question itself is different. If I were looking for how much water to use, I would not check a question about water temperature for that answer.

    i don't think they travel very different ground, but i'm not going to get bolshy about it.

  • yossarian

    yossarian Correct answer

    10 years ago

    This question was answered to some extent in another Pasta cooking question by Roux. This answer, which is basically just a link to a series of experiments by an MIT grad / Chef, dispels a number of myths about cooking pasta. For instance:

    • Water will return to a boil in the same amount of time regardless of how much is in the pot prior to pasta being added.
    • Pasta won't get sticky with smaller amounts of water. It only gets sticky because of reactions in the first few minutes of cooking, and the solution is to stir it. This is necessary even with lots of water.
    • You do not need a lot of water to cook pasta.
    • Water does not need to be boiling to cook pasta. It simply needs to be above 180°F/82°C.

    Some really interesting stuff in the article that debunks quite a lot of kitchen lore about cooking pasta. I have tried this at home with great success.

    So in answer to your specific question:

    • No, you do not need a lot of water, it simply has to cover the pasta.
    • The amount of salt is heavily dependent on the amount of pasta, the amount of water, and your own taste. You need to find a consistent way to cook pasta and then experiment.

    It is important to note that the article you link to states outright that for fresh pasta or for long-shaped pasta (such as spaghetti), the "less water is fine" rules do not apply.

    The only other argument for using more water is that less water is more likely to cause the pot to boil over. Basically the starch in the pasta makes it easier for the water to form bubbles that collect and spill over when not paying attention. I've found that with a very low pasta to water ratio can end in a messy kitchen.

    @Tim: But the reason given is that the long pasta won't be completely submerged. It only takes 20-30 seconds to get full-length spaghetti to soften enough to bend and submerge. I've cooked plenty of long pasta in minimal water. (You may want to *start* with the water boiling rapidly, but you can reduce the heat half a minute later with no problems.)

    I have been using the no-boil method for several month, even for long strand pasta like angel hair. I use cool tap water that will cover the amount of pasta I'm intending to cook, add salt, put on stove on high and stir throughly. I do snap the long pasta in half before throwing it in, to make sure it's entirely covered. Often the water will have just come to a simmer when my pasta is done, which uses less energy and keeps my kitchen cooler in the summer. I can't believe it works, but it totally does.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM