Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pasta Cooking Controversy (Cold water method)

Pasta tasting (pappardelle marinara and cavatelli  pesto genovese)

All of my life, all through culinary school every time anyone cooks pasta the procedure is as follows. One large pot with large amounts of water, boil, salt water, add pasta stir and cook until al dente. This is the only way to cook pasta most people will declare. I married an Italian woman where pasta cooking was very strict and the results better come out exact. So when I first mentioned this new pasta cooking method I was met with much skepticism.

My daily commute consists of thirty minutes drive time to and from work and with living in south Florida we have a good amount of ‘untalented’ drivers. Most times I listen to music, or listen to podcasts. One day I was listening to an Alton Brown podcast and he mentioned this cold-water pasta cooking method. When I arrived to work I gave it a whirl I went against everything I thought I knew and the “norm” and cooked pasta in cold water and I have never been the same. There are many benefits to this cooking method that I don’t think I will ever go back to the old style.  First the pasta cooks in about half the time if not faster, no more waiting around for the large amount of water to come up to a boil. Once you place the pasta in give it a couple stirs you will never have to worry about pasta sticking. Lastly it creates starchier water, perfect to finish your sauce in any pasta dish.

So one afternoon I made Anna a simple Spaghetti alla puttanesca, which I’ve made countless times. I didn’t tell her I was cooking the pasta with the new method. The results were unmatched It never came better, Anna was raving how it was the best she ever had “what’s different?” she asked. I quickly told her it’s the pasta and the new method she was pleasantly shocked, I then gave her the benefits as I outlined earlier and she agreed she liked the method.

So if your ready to give it a shoot there are a couple rules you should go by before you go against everything you know about cooking pasta.

1. When cooking short pasta such as Penne, Ziti, Bow tie etc, you can use any size pot depending on the amount you are cooking. You want to have about one inch of water above your pasta.

2. When cooking long pasta such as Spaghetti, Fettuccini, Angel hair etc, the pot must be able to be wide enough that the pasta can fully be submerged in the pot and water, and again the amount of water only needs to one inch above the pasta.

3. Always salt the water I suggest a big pinch of salt.

4. Once you have the pasta in the water and on the stove give it a stir and stir a couple of times just as you see needed throughout the cooking process but no need to worry about sticking.

5. Once the pasta comes to a boil it will be almost ready check for al dente and stain and reserve pasta water add to any dish as needed.  

Note: This method only works well with dried pasta i do not recommend this method with fresh pasta. 

So that’s it if you have followed these steps correctly you should have perfectly cooked pasta in half the time. So what do you think? Are you going to go against the norm and give this a try or have you already done so, let me know and share your experience. I would also be happy to answer any questions.


  1. I was very skeptical at first, but I have to say the results are great! Great post

  2. I was listening to the same podcast. Interesting stuff, will definitely give it a try the next time I cook pasta.

    One thing I'm not so sure about though, is whether this would work with fresh pasta.

  3. Yea it works well with dry pasta especially to finish the pasta in a sauce the sauce really clings to the Pasta. But I wouldn't recommend this method with dry pasta it might just melt the pasta as the water isn't hot enough to set the pasta.

  4. It's pretty cool how food science has turned the accepted wisdom on its head.

  5. Yeah it is exciting to see where food cookery is heading as we have more knowledge and so much more easily available to us.

  6. I'm wondering now if this would work with gluten free pasta, since the stuff sheds a lot of starch even when cooked in the traditional boiled water method. I can't help but think it might get really mushy, although it might be OK as long as it doesn't soak for too long. I refuse to use the gluten-free myself, but my sister does.

  7. That's a great point, my experience with cooking it is the same as yours but I might have some at my kitchen, I'll try to remember when I go into work today to give it a try. I'll let you know