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Breaking long pasta -- ok or no-no?

Pasta is a staple in my diet, and spaghetti with my favorite tuna-tomato sauce is something I eat pretty much weekly. There are only 2 people in my household, and while we sometimes have people over and/or want to cook enough pasta to have leftovers, often we just want enough to feed us for that night. On those nights it seems silly (not to mention wasteful of water and energy) to fill our big dutch oven with water in order to cook a small amount of pasta. However, the dutch oven is the only pot we have that long pasta fits in without breaking it.

I've heard that you're not supposed to break pasta (my boyfriend nearly fainted the first time he saw me do it), but no one seems to be able to explain why. Can you break pasta? If not, how are you supposed to cook a small amount of pasta without using a huge pot?

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  1. I don't break it. If it doesn't fit completely into the pot, I'll let it sit for a second and it softens up enough to get it all in there.

    1. Sometimes, I break. Most times I don't. I remember reading that it was considered bad luck to break pasta in Asian cultures, so maybe that has something to do with it.

      I know that when I'm cooking a small amount of pasta, and I'm not using a lot of water, I sort of push it in. I add the pasta to boiling water and then slowly push it down as it becomes more flexible until it's fully submerged.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fantasyjoker

        I never break it. Eating it whole is a part of the experience for me. I use fantasyjoker's method of slowly pushing it down until it's submerged.

        1. re: fantasyjoker

          To the Chinese, noodle dishes (especially at birthday banquets) symbolize wishes for the honoree's long life. To cut or break these noodles (even on your own plate!) is to symbolically wish the honoree an early death!

        2. Definite no-no in Italian culture.

          9 Replies
          1. re: bropaul

            If you want to be sure you are getting freshly cooked pasta in a restaurant you don't know or that is not high end, ask for it broken in half. They will have to cook it fresh for you or refuse your request.

            At home, just make it however you want. It will taste the same.

            1. re: RandyB

              I concur. Let's not make cooking pasta unnecessarily restrictive. Pasta broken in half, then cooked, is no different than the full length pasta cooked without breaking. Unless, of course, your pan is so small that the longer pieces don't cook properly. Just about everything you ever wanted or need to know about pasta is included in this link:
              http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/05/ho...

              1. re: todao

                I agree. Whatever works for you is fine. I have to admit that sometimes when I eat spaghetti alone, I cut it in half with my fork.

                1. re: todao

                  Good heavens, yes. I've broken pasta many times and not broken pasta many times. Just the same. As OP states, when just two of us, why waste the water and the energy.

              2. re: bropaul

                <<Definite no-no in Italian culture>>

                I respectfully disagree. I had two Italian-born Nonnas who both broke pasta so that they could get it in the pot without standing over it, waiting for it to soften. Maybe when you are cooking for twenty you need to think about being more pragmatic. Obviously, the size of their pots had nothing to do with it, and they were certainly cooking more than a single one-pound box at a time. It has nothing to do with Italian "culture".

                1. re: RGC1982

                  I feel like it's something people might do at home, but they wouldn't serve it to guests -- at least, in my family.

                  1. re: piccola

                    If I were serving, say, broccoli with pasta and wanted to celebrate my own Calabrian roots, I certainly would break long ziti in half like my nonna and mama did, and mix in with the gralicky, brothy, red hot peppery broth. With toasted breadcrumbs on top.

                      1. re: bob96

                        Fair enough. I certainly wouldn't be put off by broken pasta, though I do prefer it the length it comes in. Then again, I mostly eat short pasta...

                2. I break it and refuse to feel bad or in anyway unchowish for doing so. It works for you in your situation, so why not?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: debbiel

                    My sentiments exactly. Most people have enough trouble twirling spaghetti. I have often been asked to give lessons.

                  2. are the pasta police going to arrest you if u break it?
                    im not italian...so i dont think it matters (notice i said i)

                    like others have said...whatever way u want to cook pasta in your own kitchen is fine with me

                    (just for the record..i have broken spaghetti and i have just thrown it in the pot and let it work its way down)

                    and sometimes...i nuke it a bowl of water..usually just small amounts for me..