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Cooking pasta without continual boiling

greygarious Dec 30, 2008 09:40 AM

A friend who is not a good cook insists that it is unnecessary to keep the water boiling.
She brings water to a boil, adds the pasta, and once the water returns to boiling, stirs it, covers it, and turns off the burner, setting the timer for the minutes specified on the package. Skeptically, I tried this with a pound of rotini, and it worked perfectly, without any boil-over. Of course, the shape of rotini makes them unlikely to stick together - although my friend says her spaghetti doesn't clump when cooked this way, either. Not using extra electricity or gas is a plus, as is less kitchen heat in hot weather. I am also thinking that the pasta pot could "multi-task" by simultaneously making pasta and hard-boiled eggs.

  1. krisrishere Dec 30, 2008 09:45 AM

    If this works with spaghetti etc. sign me up! I just got my gas bill and I nearly had a heart attack.

    2 Replies
    1. re: krisrishere
      fourunder Jan 1, 2009 08:08 PM


      I made Pasta Carbonara today using three jumbo eggs, frozen peas, Italian parsley, Pancetta, shallots, Philadelphia Cream Cheese Ronzoni Brand Thin Spaghetti. Directions call for 9-11 minutes cooking time, depending on how you like your pasta.....Yes I know this is not a traditional recipe,,,but I did not have enough Parmigiano Reggiano in the house....and I needed to use up the items left over from the holidays.

      Boiled the water....added the pasta....returned to boil .....turned off stove, a quick stir of the pasta and covered for 10 minutes......removed pasta without any sticking and added it to the mixture....tossed and served perfectly. There was still enough heat to cook the egg and coat the pasta....this was done about 3:00 PM and it's now midnight with no ill effects....from undercooked eggs.

      I will cook my pasta with this method from now on...I am a convert.

      I started

      1. re: fourunder
        krisrishere Jan 2, 2009 06:38 AM

        That's great! I will try it out this weekend! Thank you.

    2. n
      nemo Dec 30, 2008 10:00 AM

      Greygarious: I remember that technique from years ago, and while I used to employ it, I can't remember why I stopped. It may warrant a revisit.

      Certainly, at the very least, you can multitask the water. I've seen veggies thrown in to the pot with the pasta, i.e., broccoli or green beans for a pasta dish. But I start my eggs in cold water, bring to boil, turn off, time. Maybe you could do the eggs first, take out, use the same water, bring to a second boil, salt, add pasta, time. You'd at least have a head start on the water being close to a boil.

      16 Replies
      1. re: nemo
        greygarious Dec 30, 2008 02:39 PM

        Nemo, I do HB eggs the same way - so all this would mean is adding the pasta to the pot once it's boiling, and since it only takes a moment to return to a boil, the eggs and pasta would be sitting together with the burner off for almost the same amount of time. Usually the eggs need a few minutes longer - instead of pouring off the water I'd scoop the pasta out with a spider or a spaghetti tong. Supposedly adding salt to the water for HB eggs means if an egg cracks it will seal shut quickly rather than trailiing a lot of white, so that part also dovetails nicely with cooking pasta.

        GHG, I've done eggs and then returned the water to a boil after removing them, then cooked pasta or other things, like soup stock, in that water and never detected any off odors or tastes.

        1. re: greygarious
          goodhealthgourmet Dec 30, 2008 04:56 PM

          every single time i make hard-cooked eggs (and i make them quite frequently) i notice a residual odor that clings to the pot after i dump out the water...and it's not a scent i'd like to have mingling with any other food. then again, i have a sense of smell like a bloodhound, so i detect even the faintest odors that most people would never notice.

          it's wonderful for the palate, but can also be a nuisance in certain situations - like at the gym ;)

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
            Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 04:39 AM

            By any chance do you use an aluminum pan? (Somehow I seriously doubt that!) I boil eggs in stainless steel lined copper and haven't noticed any residual odor, and I have a nose from hell! However, when I cool my eggs I always do it by putting the pan in the sink and running cold water to displace the hot, then adding ice. Maybe I'm washing all of the odor away?

            As for the original question of whether pasta cooks in less than boiling temperature water, yes, it does. And it's an effective means of preventing boil-over in a full pot. But you cannot use the cooking time on a past package, but have to rely on the traditional tasting method of biting the pasta with your teeth..

            1. re: Caroline1
              goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 10:40 AM

              Caroline, maybe you are washing it away! i typically drain the eggs off in a strainer and then transfer them immediately to an ice bath that i've already prepared. the cooling time gives me a chance to tackle the pot with a soapy sponge and hot water ASAP, because i can't stand the smell!

              oh, and i've used uncoated stainless and coated non-stick pots. doesn't make a difference - they all stink.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 10:56 AM

                LOL! So now I'm wondering if there is an odor in this world I'm not overly aware of? YAY! Either that, or how old did you say your eggs are when you boil them? Aging eggs is supposed to make them easier to peel. '-)

                1. re: Caroline1
                  goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 11:14 AM

                  i do usually reserve older eggs for hard-cooking to make the peeling easier...but i don't always remember to stock up in advance to let them "age" so occasionally i have to use really fresh ones. those reek too :)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                    hotoynoodle Dec 31, 2008 12:24 PM

                    i have a very sensitive sense of smell also and cannot tolerate commercial eggs for this reason. organic free-range eggs don't have that same odor.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      Caroline1 Dec 31, 2008 12:50 PM

                      hmmm... Because of allergies, I have to restrict my eggs to organic free range. Could that be why I'm not aware of an odor? But as GHG says, I probably wash it away with my cold water displacement and ice bath.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                        goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 12:51 PM

                        i only use organic eggs, and they still stink!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          HaagenDazs Jan 7, 2009 08:21 AM

                          Organic vs not has 110% zero effect on whether or not eggs will have a smell. I think we've lost the subject here. It was never explicitly stated, but I think the concern was the fact that if you cooked eggs and pasta in the same pot, would it negatively affect the pasta flavor.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                FriedClamFanatic Dec 31, 2008 10:25 AM

                try rubbing the pot with lemon and then re-wash

                1. re: FriedClamFanatic
                  goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2008 10:36 AM

                  oh, removing the odor after i'm finished isn't the issue - a thorough washing takes care of it. my point was that i wouldn't want that odor to cling to any other foods, were i to cook something in the pot along with the eggs, or re-use the water to boil something after.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  Scargod Jan 4, 2009 07:58 AM

                  Could you not cook the eggs in a bag and eliminate the chance of smell or flavor getting out?

                  1. re: Scargod
                    goodhealthgourmet Jan 4, 2009 05:37 PM

                    that's a solution...but honestly i'm so used to it now, it's par for the course - i just don't breathe through my nose until i'm finished washing the pot ;) seriously though, i'd rarely have a need for the water to do double duty - i can't eat pasta, and on the rare occasion that i'm blanching veggies, i'm not usually hard-cooking eggs at the same time.

                    one of these days i may try it just for kicks though.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      chowser Jan 5, 2009 04:15 AM

                      One pot cooking, blanched vegetables, noodles and deviled eggs well under half an hour. How did the Top Chef contestants not think of this one? ;-)

                      1. re: chowser
                        alkapal Jul 10, 2009 04:29 PM

                        i've cooked boiled eggs and potatoes in the same pot for potato salad. it was ok, but the timing is weird....

            2. goodhealthgourmet Dec 30, 2008 10:07 AM

              i'm all for multi-tasking and saving energy, but personally, i wouldn't re-use water from cooking eggs, or cook anything else in the pot with them...unless you want the musty odor of eggshells (or possibly sulfur) in your food.

              1. Caralien Dec 30, 2008 10:31 AM

                I make my rice in a similar fashion--cold water to 1 pinkie nail above top of rice, bring to boil, cover, remove from stove, and let sit 20 minutes. Works every time with no burnt rice on the bottom (you must, however, use a well-fitted lid or a liner, ie paper towel if your lid isn't fitted).

                While I've done this with pasta, it's usually only for stuffed, dried pasta for the kids. Or for a fast personal snack when I want gooey, over-cooked pasta (which I would never serve to guests).

                It's harder to cook to al dente with this method. To prevent boil-over, have you tried using a cast-iron pan (larger than the bottom of your pasta pot) underneath? It will provide for even heating which can prevent boil over.

                1. chowser Dec 30, 2008 03:33 PM

                  Okay, I admit I was a skeptic but decided to try this tonight. It worked perfectly. No sticky noodles, al dente. I heard it almost boil over so I lifted the pot a second until it stopped and then put it back on the burner w/ residual heat. With boiled eggs, though, I remove the pan from the burner altogether once it comes to a boil and I do a soft boil so I couldn't do eggs at the same time. Isn't this the idea of the Pasta Express? I remember seeing an infomercial on it.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: chowser
                    greygarious Dec 30, 2008 03:46 PM

                    What shape of pasta did you try?

                    1. re: greygarious
                      chowser Dec 30, 2008 04:06 PM

                      Rotini, also, whole wheat which I find tends to stick more. But, it wasn't at all sticky so I believe it would work for all shapes.

                    2. re: chowser
                      BamiaWruz Jan 7, 2009 07:51 AM

                      I was going to buy the pasta express when it was on clearance at a store for $2 but it looked so CHEAP and flimsy like it would totally fall apart. Plus the sales lady was skeptical about it working too.. the reviews on it were terrible. Wouldn't recommend it.

                      I need to try this method though, sounds interesting.

                      1. re: BamiaWruz
                        bnemes3343 Jan 7, 2009 08:03 AM

                        The pasta express is an abomination and goes against pretty much every rec on how to properly cook pasta (i.e. lots of water). turning off the heat and covering is definitely different. The pasta will just take a little longer to cook

                      2. re: chowser
                        Scargod Jan 7, 2009 08:12 AM

                        What happpened to the "Fasta Pasta" posts? I mean, just because I posted a picture of a whip!
                        http://www.fastapastacooker.com/ Does this thing work?

                        1. re: Scargod
                          BamiaWruz Jan 7, 2009 08:16 AM

                          Oh this one goes in the microwave.. never tried it. I still make my pasta in the microwave, it turns out great.. just need a microwave safe bowl, a lot of water and then you put the pasta in with salt and let it microwave.

                      3. b
                        bnemes3343 Dec 31, 2008 04:46 AM

                        Interesting. I'm making rigatoni for the family tomorrow night and am tempted to try this. I would imagine that if you cover the pot once you turn off the burner, the temp of the water wouldn't fall that much in the 10 - 12 minutes it takes to cook. In fact, if I try this I will take the temp of the water at the end and report how much it has fallen. I imagine it would be difficult for me not to want to give it a stir once or twice though during the cooking.

                        1. thew Dec 31, 2008 04:48 AM

                          if one uses enough water clumping, sticking, and boiling over ought not be issues in the 1st place

                          1. ipsedixit Dec 31, 2008 08:02 AM

                            I do almost the opposite.

                            I bring the water to a boil.

                            Add pasta.

                            Leave pot uncovered and bring to a boil again.

                            Add a cup of cold water.

                            Leave pot uncovered and bring to another boil.

                            Remove pasta.



                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              Scargod Jan 4, 2009 07:55 AM

                              Ah but you've used more energy! Please explain why the adding of cold water? Why not just continue to cook for a little longer?

                            2. Funwithfood Dec 31, 2008 09:04 AM

                              I start with a boil, then simmer. It allows me to do the other dinner prep--and I adjust the heat depending on how behind I am with the rest of the meal!

                              (I think restaurants par-cook their spaghetti, then drop it into hot water to serve.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Funwithfood
                                greygarious Dec 31, 2008 09:52 AM

                                Clearly they do, and it irks me that at so many places if you don't specifically request well-drained, you get pasta in soup rather than sauce....it should be obvious that it shouldn't be plated without a few seconds to drain first.

                              2. h
                                HLing Dec 31, 2008 07:25 PM

                                I'm with your friend in cooking pasta (and maybe in being"not a good cook"). Depending on the type of pasta, covering it may not be necessary. It's nice to be able to use a strainer to scoop out the pasta that hasn't been drained and cooled once already.

                                I like to use the water for more than one purpose, but usually not for eggs (though I cook my soft-boiled eggs in the same way). But I do tend to use the water first to blanch beet greens, spinach, carrots...what have you, and then after those veggies come out, in goes the pasta.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: HLing
                                  BamiaWruz Jan 7, 2009 07:53 AM

                                  Same here with the veg, it's a great way to multi-task.

                                2. greygarious Jan 2, 2009 06:45 AM

                                  Last night I made a pount of celentani (corkscrew-shaped) using only a 3-quart pot. The package said 6 minutes. I let it sit in the hot water for 9-10 minutes once I turned off the electric burner. At that point, the water level was well below the top of the pasta, but each piece was uniformly cooked, with no clumping. After draining I rinsed the pasta in cold water to prevent further cooking. Perfect results, despite the smaller amount of cooking water.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: greygarious
                                    thew Jan 2, 2009 07:13 AM

                                    rinsing pasta is really onyl good if you are going to make a baked pasta, or serving it w/ no sauce. the starch you rinse off aids in sauce sticking to the pasta

                                    1. re: thew
                                      greygarious Jan 2, 2009 07:53 AM

                                      In this case I'd left the pasta in the water longer than I'd intended to, so I wanted to cool it down pronto. Also, because there was so little unabsorbed water left in the pot - probably only a quart - it was quite pasty and opaque, and I wanted to get rid of it since I was going to refrigerate the unsauced pasta which I won't be using till later today. I think it would have caused the pasta to clump badly when chilled plain. However, if I had planned to use it right away, with a thinnish sauce, that probably would have been a very good thing....I will keep it in mind to use the smaller amount of boiling water when my goal is to maximize the sauce's ability to adhere to the pasta.

                                  2. Peg Jan 4, 2009 11:21 AM

                                    Eggs can have salmonella on the shells, which does not permeate the egg so they are OK to eat - but the water they are boiled in should not be used for anything else.
                                    Or that's what I've heard, anyway.

                                    I cook pasta by bringing to the boil and turning off - but it only works with reasonably thin pasta. For thicker pastas I am adding a sauce too, I drain the undercooked pasta, add the sauce with a little extra water, bring to the boil, stir, turn off and cover. After a few minutes the pasta has finished cooking and has soaked up a lot of the sauce (I don't like a lot of runny sauce on my pasta).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Peg
                                      Sooeygun Jan 7, 2009 06:53 AM

                                      Except water boils at 212F (simmers around 190F) and that is well above the temperature to kill any salmonella on the shell.

                                    2. n
                                      neverlate Jan 6, 2009 09:46 AM

                                      I start my pasta in cold water, put a lid on so it comes to a boil faster, stir and check a couple of times during the process, turn heat down once it's boiling, simmer for a while, and leave in pot with lid on. I like to take some out with a slotted spoon at the al dente stage, and let the rest sit a bit longer. Sometimes I forget to get it out at the right time, but it's never mushy.

                                      1. goodhealthgourmet Jan 6, 2009 07:30 PM

                                        Russ Parsons has a piece in this week's LA Times food section about the weeknight convenience of dried pasta, and he cooks his broccoli & pasta together in the water...


                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                          Caroline1 Jan 6, 2009 08:25 PM

                                          hmmm... For me, broccoli has turned into the "repeat food," but I am thinking maybe next time I'm winging it with a pasta dish, why not drop a few cloves of garlic in the pot to give the pasta some extra flavor? Past boiled in garlic water, then served dressed with evoo or butter and some pecorino curls might be pretty good.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                            chowser Jan 7, 2009 05:11 AM

                                            I've always done that, because I'm too lazy to wash more pots. Why don't people cook pasta in stock? It might waste stock but could make good pasta.

                                            1. re: chowser
                                              BamiaWruz Jan 7, 2009 07:57 AM

                                              SO's mother does that, pasta and ravioli.

                                              1. re: chowser
                                                alkapal Jul 10, 2009 04:33 PM

                                                i've cooked perciatelli in the water in which i'd just boiled shrimp. it was very good.

                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                Scargod Jan 7, 2009 06:06 AM

                                                As chowser and Caroline have suggested, I have put a little "Better Than Bouillon" and toasted garlic granules in my water, along with the salt and olive oil.
                                                Using a sachet, you could add stems from cilantro, tough artichoke leaves and stems, old bones, a hot pepper, etc.
                                                I'm thinking about getting this: http://www.amazon.com/Jumbo-Spice-Bal...

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                  Kagey Jan 7, 2009 06:39 AM

                                                  I cook broccoli and cauliflower in the pasta water before I cook the pasta, just use a slotted spoon to remove it. I wouldn't do them at the same time because I'd think that would overcook the vegetables.

                                                  Then cook the pasta and saute the broccoli and cauliflower in oil with garlic and chili. Add the pasta when it's done, toss and sprinkle with cheese. Very easy and fast weeknight dinner right there.

                                                2. thew Jan 7, 2009 07:57 AM

                                                  i'm still not sure what the advantage is here over boiling one's pasta

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    chowser Jan 7, 2009 08:50 AM

                                                    energy savings

                                                    1. re: chowser
                                                      Jay F Jun 4, 2011 03:10 AM

                                                      How much do you save?

                                                      1. re: Jay F
                                                        greygarious Jun 4, 2011 09:37 AM

                                                        Thew and Jay F: I save water, electricity, and my own elbow grease. For me, it is not so much the small decrease in my utility bills, though I do subscribe to the "penny saved, penny earned" credo. I would rather not haul my 8qt pasta pot from the closet, overheat and steam up my kitchen (unless it's winter), or wrestle with filling and then washing it in my somewhat shallow kitchen sink. I would rather not have to scrub the inevitable burnt foam from boilovers off my cooktop if I use a 4 or 6-qt pot. I also think that small efforts to save natural resources have cumulative value in environmental conservation, and I don't like to see avoidable waste.

                                                  2. s
                                                    Sherri Jan 7, 2009 08:22 AM

                                                    For many years, I cooked on a small sailboat. The last thing anyone on a moving/rocking boat wants is boiling water splashing around and we're very careful with our limited fuel supply. Pasta and rice were always cooked this way (bring water to a boil, add pasta/rice, cover and wait). I had a gimbeled stove and tied down the covered pasta pot with a bungee cord. It worked perfectly - no burns and great pasta. A bluewater sailor shared this method with me and I never looked back.

                                                    Disclosure: for some bizarre reason, I never transferred this method to the home stove??????? and will set about to remedy that ASAP.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Sherri
                                                      xiaobao12 Jun 3, 2011 07:02 PM

                                                      Nice story Sherri.

                                                      I am ready to try this method this weekend with 4 pounds of thin spaghetti. I hope it works although I am nervous about how much longer it will take. (I usually put the timer on for one minute less than the package directions. After draining, with the extra minute, I mix in the sauce and put the lid on). I guess it will depend on the pasta : water ratio.

                                                      Somebody mentioned that the pasta doesn't get cooked al dente - I don't quite understand that comment?

                                                      1. re: xiaobao12
                                                        greygarious Jun 3, 2011 08:45 PM

                                                        It gets cooked al dente if you don't let it sit too long a time. I have only done it with regular thickness spaghetti, which takes about 5 minutes longer than the label directions. Try 3 minutes longer, then just fish out a strand and test it. Put the cover back on and wait some more if it's not ready.

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