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Cooking Hacks

We’ve All Been Making Pasta Wrong — Starting With the First Step

This cooking hack will cook your pasts in under 5 minutes.


Whether you’re making spaghetti, bowtie, penne, or any other shape of pasta, you probably start the process by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Well, all the minutes you’ve spent waiting on those bubbles to form may have actually been wasted. Apparently, we should be heating up the water and pasta at the same time.

If you think that sounds crazy, you’re not alone. I was totally skeptical when I came across the tip from Alton Brown, even though there’s no denying this man knows what he’s talking about in the kitchen. So despite my initial reservations, I was pretty intrigued. I also liked the idea of saving time on waiting for the water to boil before adding the pasta. The faster I get to eat it, the better!

According to Brown, you start by putting the pasta in the pot, covering it with cold water, and topping it with a lid. Then just set it on the stove and wait for the boil. Once it starts bubbling, take the lid off and reduce the heat to simmer for a few minutes. Once the texture feels al dente, scoop it out with a slotted spider strainer (Buy from Amazon, $9.99) and serve. 

I did things slightly differently — mostly because I was hungry and focused on getting my meal — and totally forgot about covering the pot with a lid since that isn’t something I’ve ever done for pasta before. Once my cavatappi came to a boil, I reduced the heat as Brown instructed and gave it a couple stirs to make sure it wouldn’t stick together. I used a large cooking spoon which let me feel how dense the pasta was as I stirred — it was definitely still pretty stiff when I initially turned the heat down.

boiling pasta

Brown’s instructions say you should let it cook like this for four and a half minutes, but I would be careful considering stoves can vary. I tested a noodle at just about two minutes of simmering (I use the tasting method) and it was already perfectly al dente. I don’t own a spider strainer, so I drained it in a regular colander, which didn’t seem to affect the pasta one way or the other.

If I followed the instructions on the box, I would have had to wait at least five minutes for the water to boil, then another seven to ten minutes for the pasta to cook. But with this method, the whole process took about seven minutes in total. That also happened to be the amount of time it took me to sauté the veggies I had chopped up to top my pasta, so everything ended up being ready at once. I threw the pasta, chopped mushrooms, broccoli, and garlic in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and smidge of buttery spread, then covered it with chili pepper flakes and black pepper. Delish! 

pasta dish

Even though I didn’t stick to Brown’s method rigidly, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this was without a doubt the best pasta I have ever made — even before adding my toppings. The texture was just right, not even close to mushy, and it was done faster than usual. In fact, I’ll probably simmer it for slightly less time in the future to make the bite a bit sharper (and in my tummy sooner). I can’t believe it, but I’ll never go back to my old pasta cooking method again.

Try it out for yourself the next time you whip up some noodles and you just might find yourself believing the hype, too!

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