You’re Probably Using Too Much Water To Boil Pasta


If you’re like me, you don’t really think about how much water you use when you boil pasta. I just fill up a giant pot to make sure everything is covered. This might be overkill, though. According to Epicurious, you can probably stand to use a lot less water when you boil pasta.

Photo by Naotake Murayama.

Based on a New York Times article from food author Harold McGee, Epicurious ran a series of boiling experiments in their Test Kitchen to see how well pasta cooks with less water. They wrote:

In a series of tests, they found that a pound [450g] of pasta, which is typically cooked in roughly five quarts [4.7L] of water, cooked just as well in half that amount. Then they reduced the water to a third of those five quarts [1.5L] — again, the pasta was fine.

They also tried a method that involved skipping the water altogether and cooking the pasta directly in the sauce:

This method, which is best for short pastas such as penne, requires adding enough water to the sauce to cover the noodles (the added water cooks out of the sauce as it boils).

This helps conserve a little water, sure, but it’s also just useful knowledge to have on hand. Chances are, you don’t need to fill up that pot quite as high. For more detail, head to their full post at the link below.

How Cooking Pasta in Less Water Will Save the Planet [Epicurious]


  • Less water means that it takes less time to heat up, and therefore less time to cook. Quicker pasta is no bullshit.

  • I find if there is not enough water, once it boils up and the pasta fattens with cooking, the pasta is just sitting in a gluggy mess. Having said that, no you don’t need to fill a pot to near-top. Mine is usually a little more or less than half water, depending on the pasta being cooked, that gets boiled before adding the pasta.

    And like Chief says, less water means faster boiling.

  • Less water may require you to attend the pot more frequently for stirring to ensure none has stuck to the bottom due to crowding. The only other advantage of water than a marginal improvement in boiling time is that you’re likely to retain more of the released starch on the pasta after draining (which is recently something to aim for flavour apparently).

    I’ve experimented with the extreme of cooking directly in sauce with no added water to stop me wondering (after a very slow-cooked ragu bolognese was ready). I would not recommend it. The released starch has absolutely no-where to go and consequently the bite was insane, slightly sticking my teeth together on each chew. I can’t imagine using a bit of extra water would improve the situation.

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!