There are few times in life when the clock seems to stop. One is the last day of school before summer, when it seems like the bell will never ring. Another is when you do something embarrassing and other people see it—the few seconds of humiliation seem to last an eternity. And finally, when you’re waiting on a big pot of water to boil. Those moments have been some of the longest minutes of my life.
Then I saw a tip that you can cook pasta starting in cold water, saving time and water in the process. Instead of adding pasta to a big pot of boiling water, you combine the cold water, salt, and pasta all at one time and bring it to a boil.
This is counter to every set of instructions on every box of pasta I have ever read. Aren’t you supposed to cook pasta in a giant pot of salty water? Won’t an Italian grandma come revoke my pasta-cooking rights if I forsake this sacred tradition? My desire to save time won out over these concerns, and I put this method to the test.
How to Make Pasta In Cold Water
Here’s what you need:
- Pasta of your choice, preferably a pound or less
- Water, as needed (around a quart)
- Salt, for seasoning the water
Instead of boiling a cauldron of water and then adding the pasta, add your pasta to a large saucepan or a deep, wide skillet. The size of your pan depends on what you have handy and your pasta shape. If you’re making a long noodle like spaghetti, use a large skillet that is big enough to submerge the entire pasta. I tested a weird little squiggly shape (yes, that is the proper name) and used a medium saucepan.
Add enough water to cover the pasta by about an inch. This will be somewhere around a quart for a pound of pasta, but it depends on the pasta, pan, and how much you’re making. Add salt and turn the heat to medium-high.
Once the water begins to boil, give the pasta a stir. Cook until al dente, ensuring the pasta stays largely submerged. My squiggly pasta took about 6 minutes after it came to a boil (it calls for 12 minutes on the box), so check early and often. Once you know the timing for your favorite pasta shapes, make a note for next time.
What I Like About This Method
Because there’s less water to boil and the pasta starts cooking earlier, this method really does save time. When compared to boiling a big pot of water, it’s almost half the time. That is a real win in my book.
I also couldn’t tell the finished pasta apart from traditionally cooked pasta. You can still achieve al dente, you just have to keep testing the pasta for doneness and figure out the timing since it will be shorter than the time on the box. After the water comes to a boil, I’d start checking for doneness halfway through the prescribed cook time on the box.
In addition to saving water, this method also creates super-charged, extra-starchy pasta water. It’s great for binding sauces and helps to make mixtures creamy.
As someone who hates waiting for a big pot to boil, I’m excited to have found this new-to-me method. It might just become my new go-to way to cook pasta.