What's the point? Hey, Chef Troy!!

As I was making my boxed pasta for lunch, I noticed that they print a specific amount of water in the directions. What purpose does this serve? If the pasta is going to be drained, you’re getting rid of the water anyway. Personally, I always taste test the pasta before I take it off the burner, so I don’t think the amount has anything to do with that.

The best I’ve been able to guess is the amount will give an approximate cooking time. More water=longer boiling time, obviously. Is this the real reason, or am I missing out on some higher level of pasta enjoyment by not putting the specified amount of water in the pot?

He weathered a firestorm of agony and did not break.
And while Yori raged against his unbending
courage, we took Kyuden Hiruma back.
His loss is great, but so is the gift his suffering brought.
-Yakamo’s Funeral

There are two reasons I can make a WAG about…

  1. This is the minimum amount of water you should use in order for the pasta to cook correctly.

  2. They also tell you what size pot they think you should use and they don’t want your pot to overflow, spilling boiling water all over the place, creating a lawsuit.

If you try to cook your noodelies in too little water, the temperature of said water will drop precipitously when you drop said noodelies into it. This will result in noodelies that are all gummy and stuck together.

If you boil up a good four or five quarts of water, it will return to the boil quickly after the pasta hits it. The hotter the cooking water, the more opportunity for the noodelies to separate, shimmy and shake, and cook up to toothsome goodness.


A side observation: I think it’s only US-made pastas that specify cooking times and water amounts.

Italian-made pasta (which you should be buying anyway…the Italians have as many regulations about what goes into their noodles as Germans have for their beer…less chance you’ll be eating floor sweepings and bug parts) doesn’t give you ANY instructions…assuming, I suppose, that EVERYONE knows how to cook up a pot of pasta.


They have to tell you something because, for all they know, you might be a moron. :slight_smile: This isn’t necessarily the only way to make it, just a way. Telling you that you could use more water or a bigger pot would just add to the potential confusion.

It is too clear, and so it is hard to see.

I agree with ZenBeam - the main reason they give you directions is because there are actually people out there who would try to boil a cup of pasta in 1/2 cup of water. Also, in my experience, most people cook pasta in too little water, not to mention too small of a pot. You want a big pot, lots of water, or you’ll end up with mushy, sticky pasta.

On a related note- I personally know someone who doesn’t know anything about boiling stuff. Last Wednesday we had a potluck at work and a girl said she’d bring deviled eggs. She called the shop that morning asking for directions on how to boil eggs! She had no clue how much water to use and how long they boil. She was freaking out!

We told her how long to boil them and also told her that if you boil them until they crack then it’s no big deal. Well, 40 minutes later she called and said, “They’ve been boiling for 1/2 and hour and they’re not cracking!”. She was almost hysterical! We calmed her down and talked her thru it (I guess you had to be there!).

I’m sorry you didn’t win, mom, but I’ll give you a constellation prize! -Greg

Well! I’m flattered that you consider me an authority. Finally all that money I’m paying my publicist is paying off. :wink:

The reasons they specify a particular amount of water are covered pretty well by the above posts, so I’ll cover a few related topics.

On adding salt and/or oil to the water: I don’t think salting the water is a good idea…it affects the water’s boiling point and could interfere with that perfect al dente state of doneness. Better to salt the pasta after you drain it. As for oil, many people toss their spaghetti with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking into a solid clump of semolina. It’s worth it to do this if the pasta has to sit for a while before you serve it, but putting it into a fresh change of cold water is better. tossing your pasta with oil will indeed keep it from sticking to itself (as long as your toss it thoroughly to distribute the oil), but it will also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta when you’re eating it.

To keep it from boiling over: Obviously, use a big enough pot and don’t fill it to the top with water. The other thing you can do is to set your burner on high only until the water starts boiling, then reduce it to a notch or two below that. The vigorous boil will calm down to a light boil, still more than enough to cook the pasta but less likely to try to escape the pot. If your pot of pasta is about to boil over or has in fact started to do so, I’ve found that stirring while blowing on the surface of the cooking liquid will make the foam subside; then take it off the heat for a second, lower the burner temperature a notch or two, etc.

Hope this helps!

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

Pasta absorbs water & you need the right amount of water for that.

Plus, americans are kinda dumb when it comes to following instructions. How illiterate people can ever read the box is a mystery.

What’s wrong with bug parts in your pasta? After all, it’s just some added protein.