How to Cook Pasta With Less Water

Pasta cooking on the stove
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The traditional way of cooking pasta calls for 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta, but if you're willing to do some stirring, you can make pasta with just a fraction of the water. You'll use less energy this way, too, because the smaller amount of water comes to a boil much more quickly. Plus, pasta cooked using this technique actually makes its own sauce. It just might be the most frugal recipe of all time!

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 20 minutes

What You Need

  • A soup pot or stockpot wide enough to accommodate the length of your pasta.
  • 1 pound of uncooked pasta.
  • 2 quarts of cold water.
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
  • About 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter.

Here's How

  1. Fill a broad-bottomed stock pot with 2 quarts of cold water. Add 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
  2. Add 1 pound of uncooked pasta to the salted water. Bring the water to a boil, stirring the noodles frequently so they don't stick together.
  3. Once the water boils, lower heat to a simmer and continue cooking, still stirring frequently, for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente, or tender but still firm to the bite.
  4. Drain the remaining water, toss pasta with olive oil or butter and serve with your desired sauce. Or you can use the thickened pasta water as a sauce (see below).


  • Make sure your pot is wide enough to accommodate the length of your pasta noodles.
  • This technique does require a lot of stirring to keep the pasta from sticking, so you won't want to go wandering off while it cooks.
  • The starchiness of the leftover pasta water makes it great for adjusting the consistency of whatever sauce you're using. But you can also make a sauce from the pasta liquid—just add a little bit of butter or olive oil to it, ladle it over the pasta and serve.
  • If you want to use the pasta water, instead of draining it you can use a pair of tongs to remove the cooked pasta—assuming you're cooking long pasta noodles. For other pasta shapes, like shells or macaroni, you can lift the cooked pasta out of the water using a ravioli skimmer (compare prices).