If you're in search of the perfect al dente pasta, this guide is for you! With these simple tips you can answer the question: how long do you boil pasta for?
Check out these tips for how to perfectly cook several varieties of pasta. Take a simple pasta dinner and make it restaurant quality with expertly cooked noodles, every time!
What is Needed to Boil Pasta?
Before getting into the question of how long do you boil pasta, it's important to have all of the right tools and ingredients first.
To start, you'll of course need your pasta of choice. This method works for just about any type of pasta you can think of!
For tools, all you'll need is a large pot and a good spoon for the occasional stir.
Aside from the pasta, you'll also need a few quarts of water (cold water often works best) and some sea salt to salt your pasta water.
How to Cook Pasta
- Fill your pot or saucepan with cold water. Depending on how much pasta you're planning to make, you may not need as much water.
- Over high heat, bring the water up to a rolling boil. Then add the salt. It's important to wait until the water is boiling to add salt, as salted water will take longer to boil.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water. While it cooks, give it an occasional stir to prevent sticking. 8-10 minutes is standard, but this can vary based on the kind of pasta.
- Test your noodles for doneness. Using your spoon, scoop a single noodle out of the water and, once cool, taste it and gauge the texture.
- Once you're pleased with how cooked your noodles are, drain them in a colander or strainer. Then use them as you please!
What is Al Dente?
This is an Italian term that translates directly to "to the tooth." It refers to pasta that is mostly cooked and has some resistance in the bite, and is firmer in the center. Cooking pasta al dente makes it satisfying to chew and in many cuisines is considered the ideal for pasta.
Many boxes of pasta will include explicit instructions for cooking al dente. If there aren't directions for cooking al dente, turn off the heat a few minutes before the lowest time given.
Always test your noodles before you think they're done to ensure you don't cook them more than you mean to!
Various Pasta Cooking Times
- Fresh Pasta - When it comes to fresh pasta, you'll almost never need to cook it for more than 4-5 minutes. Unlike dried pasta, it doesn't need as much time in the boiling water to rehydrate, so it will cook much faster.
- If you're interested in making your own pasta, check out this post from Swirls of Flavor on Easy Homemade Pasta!
- Spaghetti / Linguine - These long strands of pasta are classic and an American favorite. Many boxes of spaghetti or linguini will instruct to cook for 10-12 minutes. Start tasting at 8 minutes for al dente.
- Fettucine - Similar to spaghetti and linguine, fettucine is also a long strand pasta and should be cooked anywhere from 8-13 minutes, depending how firm or soft you'd like it to be.
- Penne - This variety is short and ridged tubes so it is much thicker than the previous selections, so a good al dente is typically reached in about 10 or 11 minutes but some brands are cooked until about 13 or 14 minutes for penne.
- Ziti / Rigatoni - Somewhat close to penne, ziti and rigatoni are even bigger pieces of pasta need to be cooked anywhere from 9-15 minutes. Like all types of pasta, be sure to start tasting early on.
- Elbows - Also called macaroni, these tiny noodles are typically al dente in 8-9 minutes, and probably shouldn't be cooked any longer than 12 minutes.
- Egg Noodles - Egg noodles can reach al dente status in about 10 minutes.
- Shells - Small and thin, shell-shaped pasta should be cooked about 8 minutes for al dente, or 9 minutes for a slightly softer finish.
- Angel Hair / Capellini - Though it may look similar to spaghetti, angel hair or capellini pasta is exceptionally thin and doesn't take as long to cook. It will be done in just 3-5 minutes.
Pasta Cooking Tips
- Always salt the water once it's boiling. Adding salt to the water is an easy way to add flavor to your pasta before it even comes into contact with other ingredients.
- When making any kind of sauce to serve, save a cup or so of the pasta water. It's a great source of starch and salt and can be used to thicken sauces and add great salty flavor.
- Don't add olive oil to your water. It's also not a great idea to oil your pasta after cooking, even to prevent sticking. This can lead to any sauce or seasonings slipping off the noodles.
- Start with cold and fresh water and bring it up to a solid, rolling boil.
- Give the pasta a good stir as soon as you drop it in the water. This is a great way to prevent sticking right from the start.
- Drain the pasta, but don't let it get too dry. This will cause the natural starches to become firm, which will lead to the pasta sticking together.
- For best results, add pasta to sauce rather than the other way around. Cooking the pasta should typically be the last step in a recipe.
Pasta Serving Suggestions
The thing I love about pasta is that is goes with so many different types of sauces. My family's favorite is this Easy Italian Meat Sauce but I often also serve it with a simple marinara sauce. It is really good with some garlic and oil or a pesto sauce too. There are just so many possibilities!
Best Pasta Recipes
- Angel Hair Pasta with Blush Sauce - With a light and flavorful pink pasta sauce, this delicate pasta dish is so simple to prepare and will be a huge hit with your family!
- Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto - Make this pasta salad as a refreshing side dish that captures the best flavors of summertime.
- Vegetarian Penne Pasta - Mix up perfectly cooked penne with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and peas for a healthy and flavorful dish.
- One Skillet Poblano Chili Mac - Ready in minutes, this bold macaroni dish is flavored with peppers for the perfect amount of spicy kick!
Thanks for stopping by! Subscribe to Jersey Girl Cooks if you would like more recipes and cooking tips sent to your email. You can also order my Super Easy Cookbook for Beginners and follow me on social media - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.