There are two main methods, either putting the strands into water already at boiling point, or putting them in cold water and then putting on the heat.

Which method is the best to cook pasta?

Does it make a difference if you add pasta to cold or boiling water?

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    You should mention the type of noodles you would like to cook. The word "pasta" implies Italian wheat or wheat/egg noodles. – Douglas Held Oct 14 '18 at 14:11
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    Probably even more important is fresh vs dry pasta. My guess is that you're in a part of the world where most is dry so it's the default, but it's hard to be sure. – Cascabel Oct 14 '18 at 14:30
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    I was asking about dried as well as fresh pasta .. – Laila Oct 14 '18 at 16:16
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    @DrydenLong ... and as everyone knows, spaghetti grows on trees. youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU – Ewan Mellor Oct 15 '18 at 22:18
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    the pasta will end up being rather mushy on the outside from being in the water for too long – even if, on the inside, it is al dente. This suggests that the temperature-over-time curve while cooking does have an impact on the pasta's texture. In particular, if your stove is exceptionally slow, starting from cold water might not get you as good a result as starting from boiling water does. – balu Oct 16 '18 at 22:18

For dried pasta it doesn’t really matter if you start with cold or hot water, as most of the time pasta spends in water is for hydration. And once the hydrated starches reach a certain temperature they gelatinize, thus cooking the pasta. When you start with cold water, you should use less water, which is actually a plus...

Note: I forgot to mention, you should swirl the pot every couple of minutes to prevent sticking.

However, when you’re cooking fresh pasta, you should directly start with boiling water. As it’s already hydrated, you just need gelatinization.

As for which you should do for dry pasta, there are benefits to both:

  • starting from boiling
    • more consistent timing (and less attention), since you can time from when you add the pasta
    • works with long shapes like spaghetti and fettuccine, since they'll soften quickly to bend submerge
  • starting from cold
    • faster overall - less water to boil, and pasta is already starting to cook by the time it hits a full boil
    • easier to avoid initial sticking
    • starchier pasta water, useful for sauces
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    Do you have any interest to cite a source? I have never heard of cold water pasta cooking, except for in energy saving situations like mountaineering. – Douglas Held Oct 14 '18 at 14:09
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    A quick Google search yields this, as one of many sources: seriouseats.com/2013/05/… – zetaprime Oct 14 '18 at 14:38
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    The Food Lab article zetaprime linked links to another with even more explanation: seriouseats.com/2010/05/…, and from there to Harold McGee's article: nytimes.com/2009/02/25/dining/…. It's not at all a new idea, and plenty of prominent writers (as well as plenty of users here) have had great success with it. – Cascabel Oct 14 '18 at 23:50
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    I'd suggest editing in some of the benefits of this method, because the boiling tradition is really hard to shake. The articles we've linked include plenty to start from. – Cascabel Oct 15 '18 at 14:37
  • @Cascabel Agreed. I will add some, and you’re more than welcome to edit. I will cover some of it as I have time during the evenings. – zetaprime Oct 15 '18 at 14:58

As stated in another answer, Italian tradition is that all pasta is cooked in boiling water. A reasonable explanation for this usage is that it's easier to get the time right this way.

Pasta is very sensitive to cooking time, and will easily turn from 'al dente' to an overcooked mush if left on the fire a couple of minutes too much. By cooking it in boiling water, you ensure that it cooks in uniform conditions, always at the same temperature, regardless of the starting temperature of the water, the temperature of your kitchen, and the power of your burner. So it is a safer bet that cooking it for the same amount of time will work.

In my experience, the time marked on the package is almost always accurate for pasta cooked in boiling water. So it gives you a useful reference point, which you don't have if you cook it starting from cold water.

  • I've never tried cooking from cold, but I do pre-soak when I'm making gluten-free pasta .... and it's actually easier to get al dente (which is really tough to get with gluten-free pasta) ... but of course, you have to watch it, not leave it alone for the time it says on the package. – Joe Oct 14 '18 at 23:21
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    It's true that the timing is easier, though you still generally have to check toward the end. There are downsides though: you need to boil more water and the pasta isn't getting a head start from the pre-boiling time, so it takes longer and you don't get nice pasta water. It can also be harder to prevent sticking, because the starch gels immediately, no chance to rinse any into the water. So overall it definitely works well, but that's not quite the same as saying it should be done this way. – Cascabel Oct 15 '18 at 15:29
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    @JamieClinton I agree --- that's why my answer does not stop after the first sentence. – Federico Poloni Oct 15 '18 at 17:57
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    When cooking eggs putting them in boiling water also results in a better timing calibration. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 16 '18 at 9:13
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    Be aware that this is not true for high altitudes where the pressure is lower, and thus the boiling point of water drops below 100°C. – M.Herzkamp Oct 16 '18 at 13:23

It depends on the pasta shape:

There are times when you do want to start with a large pot of already-boiling water. The first is when cooking fresh pasta. Because fresh pasta is made with eggs, if you don't start it in boiling water, it won't set properly, causing it to turn mushy or worse, disintegrate as it cooks.

The second exception is with long, skinny pasta shapes like spaghetti or fettucini. Because they stack together so easily, it's more likely than with other pasta shapes that they will stick together. As the pasta heats and absorbs moisture, starches on its surface gelatinize, becoming sticky, If the strands are stuck together when this happens, they'll fuse together permanently, especially in a smaller pot where you have less room to maneuver them.



TL;DR please be nice with yourself: only drop pasta in a pot of boiling water (approx 1 liter every 100 grams of pasta)

To the eyes of an Italian, the mere allusion to cooking pasta by dropping it into a pot of cold water is unthinkable.

You always need to drop pasta into a pot of boiling water in order to cook it. On the contrary, you'll end up eating a dish of overcooked pasta with an unpleasant gummy consistence.

The rule of thumb is approx 1 liter of water for 100 grams of pasta.

Another rule of thumb is opting for the best brands, the ones whose plants are settled in the southermost regions of Italy (Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, Sicilia, Molise etc.).

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    Are you talking about fresh pasta? The question is most likely about dry. And if you're talking about dry, do you have an explanation for this based on something other than strongly held tradition and conventional wisdom? My experience, and that of some pretty serious experts, is that dry pasta can be cooked just as well if not better starting from cold water, and it definitely does not end up overcooked or gummy. Finally, please do not be rude to anyone here, even if you think they're wrong. – Cascabel Oct 14 '18 at 14:29
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    Why don’t you just try, cooking pasta starting in cold water? I mean dry pasta – zetaprime Oct 14 '18 at 14:58
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    @zetaprime In this case I have tried cooking pasta from cold water.... not really my experiment, but due to another cook's accident [cooking-while-distracted], and that pasta turned out awful. I think it was elbow macaroni for macaroni and cheese, and it was a big gluey mushy mess. – Lorel C. Oct 14 '18 at 19:57
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    And like I said, I've started it cold (probably at least a dozen varieties, including macaroni) and it works as well as if not better than starting from boiling. It's possible to make good or bad pasta either way. Additional anecdotes about it aren't going to resolve anything; we've pointed out the issues in the answer at this point. – Cascabel Oct 14 '18 at 23:47
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    Also, I'm just going to remove all the religion analogy stuff. It's just distracting from the actual points. – Cascabel Oct 14 '18 at 23:56

Actually both given answers and options in the question are wrong. The highest temperature starch needs for hydration is 83°C. Water boils at 100°C, thus you don't need boiling water. Cold water is also wrong, but not because of the pasta, because of the cooking pot. The salt is made of ions which need to connect to other atoms when the salt is dissolving. If the water is cold but you heat up the cooking pot, then the ions might connect to the high energized iron atoms instead of being surrounded by low energized water molecules. Damages to the cooking pot will be visible after 10 years though. In the cooking water the salt is added to prevent starch granules in the pasta to merge with each other instead of swelling during hydration. Because if they merge the pasta lose elasticity and the sugar taste of the starch is less accessible for our tongue, making the pasta taste bad and feel clumsy. For this fact you can allegedly never add too much salt to the boiling water. Rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon for 1 liter of water. There is no rule of thumb for the ration of pasta and water, since you can even cook pasta like a risotto.

The best way to cook pasta is to heat water in a cooking pot until you see bubbles at the bottom, then add salt and then add pasta, stir occasionally. Boiling cooking water is for lazy cooks who don't want to stir all the time and cold water cooking is for soaking the pasta when you are low on heating fuel.

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    There are some points in this post that I reckon may be good advice, but also quite a few that seem more like pseudoscientific gobbledygook. “the ions might connect to the high energized iron atoms”... sounds like you're describing the pot rusting, but that's not really something you can influence much with temperature. – leftaroundabout Oct 14 '18 at 23:16
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    I've studied a lil bit of thermodynamics. If your water produces steam, it's at 100 degress C. That being said, this is a new technique to me so I'm going to upvote. You should consider removing the part where you call cooks lazy for using conventional methods. This community is one of the softest most sensitive communities on the internet. Literally any form of negativity will get you downvoted. It's honestly suffocating, but it's best to play the Positive Mental Attitude game till you hit about 1000 reputation. I'd also hate to see the mods remove this unique advice. – user63835 Oct 15 '18 at 14:58
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    @Joe The top answer in the question you linked contradicts the statement you made. – user63835 Oct 15 '18 at 15:03
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    @Steve Just a minor note... Water produces steam at 100 degress C... at 1 atmosphere of pressure. At high elevations where the pressure may be lower, water steams at significantly lower temperatures. – Beofett Oct 15 '18 at 16:18
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    @J.ChrisCompton steaming temperature is the same thing as boiling point for this. Basically, once the water gets a certain amount of heat applied to it, it starts to change phase and become a gas. At that point any additional heat just makes it become a gas faster. A rolling boil is just water that's becoming steam at a decent pace for cooking. In thermodynamics this would have to do with the quality of water if you want to look into it more. If you want to actually make the water hotter you'd have to increase pressure. That's what pressure cookers do. – user63835 Oct 15 '18 at 17:20

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