Usually I cook the pasta in boiling water... add it to sauce in the pan, another 2-3 minuts and done.

But today I've tried to cook pasta in the sauce.

Sauce: pepper + onion + garlic + flour + tomatoes + wine.

I've added a little bit water + Raw spaghetti. They were cooking, covered by the water (sauce). And if usually they done afer 10-12 minutes, at this time it took 20+ minutes. It's because sauce was acidic?

Is there reason to add a little bit acid to the water, where spaghetti usually are cooking? To prevent them from being overcooked.

  • 1
    I've never seen a pasta package that said to add anything other than some salt to the water. To be fair, I've never tried cooking uncooked pasta directly in sauce tho either, I imagine the pasta soaks in moisture from the sauce and could make it pasty?
    – CrossRoads
    Sep 21, 2018 at 16:21
  • I don't follow your description. In the first paragraph you say that your meal is usually done in 2-3 minutes, in the fourth you say that it usually takes 10-12. Do you mean two different ways of cooking?
    – rumtscho
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:02
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    @rumtscho I think OP means after cooking pasta in boiling water, they cook it in the sauce for 2-3 minutes to finish their meal.
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 21, 2018 at 17:10
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    @CrossRoads pasta cooked in its sauce is definitely a thing. It's called "pasta risottata" in Italian; you'll find several recipes if you google these words. Sep 21, 2018 at 20:00

3 Answers 3


No, it has nothing to do with the acidity of your sauce.

It took a lot longer to cook because of the prevalent temperature throughout the pan, and the mass of the material being heated.

Sauce + Noodles is a lot to heat up, a lot more than just a pot of water. It's also unlikely you fully boiled the Sauce + Noodles as you would have with water (to a full rolling boil).

If you had left it cook long enough on high heat, eventually the noodles would get overdone and soggy, and if left even longer, the sauce and noodles would burn too.

If you've ever had an overdone Lasagna, you'll have tasted noodles cooked in sauce too long - they're mushy and unappetizing. (Traditionally lasagna noodles are pre-cooked before being layered into the lasagna dish and baked, but it would be a similar effect to cooking while in sauce)

Probably worth noting: by cooking the raw pasta in the sauce, you're adding a lot of starch directly to the sauce, probably making it quite a bit thicker than normal. This may or may-not be good, depending on your preferences.

  • 10
    The specific heat capacity of sauce will not be higher than that of just water, certainly by mass and, I'm quite sure, also by volume. The amount of energy needed to heat it to a certain temperature will not be higher than if it were just water. The real driver here is concentration gradient. Plain water wants to mix with anything it can and will diffuse into the pasta to hydrate it against a concentration gradient.
    – J...
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:27
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    With sauce and a lot of dissolved material already mixed with the water you have to not just pay the energy cost of mixing the water into the noodle, but also the energy cost of "unmixing" the water from the sauce. Anything you're trying to hydrate by boiling will proceed more slowly as the concentration of dissolved or suspended material increases in the water.
    – J...
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:30
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    @j Sauce will be higher than water. It has to cook stuff and that takes heat.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:40
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    I feel like I'm being trolled for some reason... Cooking pasta in a sauce takes longer than in boiling water, and yes it can still be overcooked. Period, end of story.
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 21, 2018 at 23:45
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    @ruakh Ingredients don't just heat up - they cook. Cook consumes heat.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 22, 2018 at 15:38

You can not prevent your pasta from overcooking but you can make it more mushy (and unpalatable)

The effect of acidity is very noticeable with potatoes, adding a shot of vinegar will let you cook almost paper-thin slices without them falling apart, while adding soda does the opposite. This article goes in detail and has close-up images of the results

I expected it to be the same for pasta, and since I had a handful of leftover Barilla n.34 occupying space in my cupboard I simply cooked up two batches.

  • Both were cooked in boiling water for the recommended 6 minutes in a glass of water without salt.
  • To the first batch I added a tablespoon of baking powder (I didnt have pure soda)
  • To the second I added a shot of 40% vinegar

Rinsing them off with clean water mostly got rid of the acidic/alkaline taste (except some droplets that were remaining in deep crevices. I guess using something less squiggly, like spaghetti one could rince off the vinegar completely) I was checking the taste and consistency throughout writing this post. Ignoring the remains of vinegar/soda, there were no percievable difference between those two.

The baking powder, in addition to Sodium bicarbonate, has an acidic counterpart Disodium pyrophosphate which means that even with a full tablespoon of it, the pH didnt change much.
So I brought out the big guns and boiled some of the cooked pasta with a teaspoon of drain cleaner for one more minute. They attained a darker colour and the water also turned yellowish. I did not taste-test those, but they were, and 20 minutes later still are, very glossy sticky and mushy.

I left them on the table overnight, and while the first two batches started drying out around the edges and became stiffer, the drain cleaner pasta is still soft, sticky and glossy.

This experiment could be improved by using spaghetti, since they are more uniform, and measure their curvature radius and mass as an indicator of how al-dente the are and how much water they absorbed.

Top - Baking powder, Bottom right - Drain cleaner, Bottom left - Vinegar enter image description here

  • Cooking pasta in drain cleaner, oh my! Well, allegedly that's how the lye pretzel was invented, so there you go... Sep 21, 2018 at 22:36
  • so, are the very dark looking ones at the right the vinegar ones? You don't tell much of the vinegar ones taste and texture, which would be the main thing I'd expect to learn from the answer. We love self experiments, please don't leave us hanging :)
    – rumtscho
    Sep 22, 2018 at 5:25

I think it is because your ingredients are not up to 212 F. I takes them a while to cook up to 212 F. The water may be boiling but a lot of the pasta is touching the ingredients.

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