Every time I cook spaghetti in a regular pot, I get the feeling that I could save litres of water if the pot had been created with spaghetti cooking in mind. This is especially true when I only need 1-2 portions. Cooking smaller pasta is more efficient.

Diagram of the Nordenfur pasta pot

Is there a culinary reason for using so much water? Do professional kitchens use a better method?

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    This might be of interest: nytimes.com/2009/02/25/dining/25curi.html
    – johnny
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 12:00
  • Related questions: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3949/… and cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/6162/…
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 12:31
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    The starch in pasta gets activated with heat, so if you are boiling the pasta you need at least enough room for the pasta to move around so the activated starches don't cause the strands to stick to each other. On the other hand, if the pasta is pre-soaked in cold water, then it only needs to be boiled in a small amount of water for ~1 minute.
    – ESultanik
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 13:03
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    As for your illustrations... there is honestly not much of a difference between your tall thin pot, and a wide bottomed pot with just enough water to cover (inch or two), it is basically the same setup sideways - and the differences are in favor the sideways setup, since there's more contact with the stovetop to heat the water and keep it hot, more even heat along the pasta than just bottom up, and more things you can do with the pot itself. There's just a little more water, the curved sides of the pot make a disk instead of a cylinder, but it's a fairly close match.
    – Megha
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:34
  • @Megha's idea is only true if you use a lid, otherwise the extra evaporation from the much larger surface area will mean a need for greater heat input
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 9:02

9 Answers 9


A tall thin pot is a hazard as it can be tipped over all too easily

The book says use lots of water to ensure even cooking and to stop the pasta sticking. But regular stirring will solve this problem too

Just use less water in a regular pot and feed the pasta into the boiling water. It takes about 30 seconds for long spaghetti to soften enough for it to fit into a regular pot. It cooks just fine WITHOUT breaking it up if you give it a quick stir after a minute, and then every couple of minutes or so

If you know your stove temperature and spaghetti type, it will only take a couple of goes to work out the least amount of water you can use. I use about 1 l of boiling water for three adult servings of spaghetti in a medium domestic pot. With the lid half on it is cooked to a firm bite point in less than 8 minutes, and the water just covers the spaghetti when finished

  • I don't feel the need to use large pot. A few seconds of stirring and everything fits in nicely. Commented May 12, 2011 at 15:32

Your suggested design would topple over very easily, especially on a gas hob with a grate, risking serious injury.

Aside from safety concerns, your design would also be inefficient as there is an extremely low surface area in contact with the hob. It would therefore take longer to heat up. Since the pasta is bunched together, there is a lower surface area of pasta in contact with the water, further slowing the cooking process. Your design would also cause some serious sticking- you'd likely end up with a stuck-together tube of spaghetti with this.

A smaller, normal-shaped pan can be used while avoiding sticking if you can be bothered to stir it more often, but a large pan with plenty of water would be the ideal solution.

  • As to your non-culinary criticism, both problems could be solved using a water-filled foot.
    – user4697
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 20:21

You need a lot of water to dilute the starch in the pasta. Less water = more sticking.

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    -1 You just need to stir to make sure it doesn't stick. The amount of water is essentially irrelevant. See: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3949/…
    – yossarian
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 18:07
  • Interesting.... Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:56
  • @ElendilTheTall But if you intend to use the pasta water to help emulsify a sauce, on the contrary, you want to concentrate the starch as much as possible, so using just enough water to cover the pasta is advisable.
    – JBGreen
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 19:41

If you use too little water when cooking your pasta (on the stove), the starch to water ratio will be too high. This means your pasta won't "cook" or absorb the proper amount of water. I purchased the "Fasta Pasta" as seen on tv "device". It goes along with your question of a tall, thin pasta pot, but is made for cooking pasta in the microwave. It uses a LOT LESS water than cooking on the stove. I don't know why. I seriously dislike "as seen on TV" gizmos, but this one was worth it.


The more amount of water in a pot the more consistant the water temperature will be. A very small amount of water would cool down once the pasta was added which would take longer to boil, and cook the pasta at a lower temperature causing the center of the pasta to cook more which would likely keep the pasta from becoming al dente. You could make fresh pasta if you'd like to have perfectly cooked pasta with less water consumption.


I've been cooking pasta (successfully) for nearly 40 years and I'm here to tell you that you don't need a boiling pot of water to cook pasta to perfection. You can start it in cold water and you don't need all the water that many espouse you need.


If you really only want to cook one or two portions of pasta, you can also boil water in a wide, flat pan. I'd say stainless steel is best - it shouldn't be too shallow - and cook the spaghetti in there. Also works for other "long" foods like asparagus.

EDIT: I also think using less pasta water is better for getting starchier water to create sauces that then stick better, like pasta aglio e olio.


I'd like to know the origin of when people started boiling spaghetti in gigantic cauldrons, because modern techniques are the same as traditional Italian techniques. Instead of doing something bizarre like building a unique spaghetti-only boiler, why not just use a saucepan wider than your noodles?

You get a wide saucepan and put in your spaghetti - the wider the pan, the better (unless you don't mind breaking up your noodles). Fill the pan with cold water until it just covers the noodles, and add salt - the salt will flavor your noodles (it's not there to reduce the boiling temperature, etc.). Do not stir, do not add oil, do not walk away. Put flames on high until the water starts to boil, then drop heat down to medium-high and wait for half the time it normally takes to cook your noodles (typically ~10mins, so change heat at ~5mins). Save 1-2 cups of pasta water (to emulsify your pasta sauce with the starchy water) then dump the rest. Put your sauce and half-cooked noodles back into the pan, turn up the heat, and slowly add in pasta water to thicken your sauce.

Emulsification is the process by which you combine two incompatible ingredients - oil and water. The heavy amounts of starch in the pasta water allow for better binding mechanisms with the fatty acids, creating a rich sauce similar in concept to roux. Hence, spaghetti made with pasta water is a completely different beast than spaghetti made without pasta water.


The more water the better circulation which lessens the chance of the pasta getting tangled and unevenly cooked.

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