Total win -- al dente pasta with less water, less propane or other fuel, and less heat and steam in the boat!

Pasta on the Boat

If you’re like me, pasta is a staple.  But I always felt guilty about how much water I used in cooking it and hated how much heat — and steam! — it put into the boat on a hot day.  I always used less water than recommended and covered the pan, but always felt that there had to be a more boat-friendly way.

Last week, reader Lynn Duggan left a comment with her way and it’s great!  I’ve tried it three times now and had perfect results every time, using less water, less propane and putting out a lot less heat and steam.

Lynn’s method works for anything but the tiniest pasta (stars and so on) and thinnest angel-hair pasta.  It’s also not suitable for fresh pasta.

  • Use half the water called for on the package and salt (or bouillon) as usual. Cover pan and bring to a boil.
  • Add pasta, cover and boil for 3 minutes.
  • Turn heat off and let sit, covered, for 10 more minutes.
  • Drain* and use as desired.

Perfect al dente!

*I use this water to rinse other dishes (pre-washing) so that it’s not wasted.

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19 Comments
  • Susan Leaf
    Posted at 03 March 2014 Reply

    Same technique also works for our small crockpot with rice. I was always getting overcooked rice by keeping the crockpot on low for the whole time. I keep it on low for 1 1/2 hrs and then shut it off, placing a towel over it to keep the heat in. We use a 300w inverter for powering the crockpot while underway and keep it in the sink to prevent it from spilling.

  • Iain Fraser
    Posted at 03 March 2014 Reply

    Great tip. Not sure if I saw it on this site or another about warming plates but I use waste hot cooking water (such as from the pasta) to warm plates. Simply pour onto the plate, leave for a couple of minutes and pour away. A quick wipe of the plate and the heat will dry the plate. Very quick way to heat plates but not for use on a rolling boat!!

  • Jacqui Evans
    Posted at 21 March 2014 Reply

    You can use a similar technique for boiling potatoes too. You might need to play around with the timing a bit to get it right depending on the size of the pot and the amount of the potatoes, but as long as the lid is snug enough that the heat is retained, once boiled the potatoes will continue to cook with the heat turned off.

  • Edith Mc Gee
    Posted at 07 April 2015 Reply

    Yesterday, I was gifted with a copy of your book.
    My daughter surprised me with it.
    Your book is super! I’m thrilled with it.
    I love it … almost as much as I love my super kid (winkwink)

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 07 April 2015 Reply

      Thank you so much — I’m glad you find it useful.

  • The Boat Galley
    Posted at 07 April 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Julie Sandler Lambert
    Posted at 07 April 2015 Reply

    I’ve been using the cold water (absolutely cold or you have one huge noodle!) start in a skillet for the last few months. The pasta never sticks and by the time the water is boiling the pasta is almost done. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t tried it!

  • Christopher J. Melo
    Posted at 07 April 2015 Reply

    Will give this a try. Thanks! I have been using half seawater half fresh (Lin Pardey suggestion maybe?) and find it works well and saves potable water.

  • Deborah Mackenzie
    Posted at 08 April 2015 Reply

    I can confirm that the Boat Galley tip works brilliantly even when catering for 10 people! I have been doing this for several years!

  • Pamela Douglas Webster
    Posted at 08 April 2015 Reply

    I recently read a suggestion to cook grains by pouring boiling water over them in a thermos and letting it sit.

    I’m wondering if such a method would work with some of the tiny pastas you mentioned as not being effective with this method.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 08 April 2015 Reply

      I do a fair amount of Thermos cooking — see my article here: http://theboatgalley.com/thermos-cooking/ — and the problem with doing the little pasta that way is that it just doesn’t need to cook long enough for the technique to work well. Usually, it ends up overcooked and just a blob.

  • June Stein Kelly
    Posted at 08 April 2015 Reply

    Sounds great but using starchy water to rinse doesn’t seem like a great idea to me. Wouldn’t it leave a film?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 09 April 2015 Reply

      I use it to rinse dishes before washing them — particularly pans and stuff with “crud” in them. So they’re still getting washed after.

  • Its all about boats
    Posted at 16 April 2015 Reply

    love this! yummy pasta – always good!

  • Carolyn Shearlock
    Posted at 07 January 2016 Reply

    A tip that a reader sent me in an email:

    An update to your pasta note. You don’t have to boil the pasta…

    http://lifehacker.com/you-don-t-need-to-boil-your-pasta-just-the-water-1750491260

  • Judith Nelson Cruzan
    Posted at 04 August 2016 Reply

    I’m not on a boat, never lived on a boat (daughter has), and sadly probably never will. I still read and love your posts because they are just good common sense. Thank you.

  • Randy Sysol
    Posted at 06 August 2016 Reply

    We also use a portable camp stove outside when it’s too hot in the boat. Great tips here, thanks!

  • Jim Allen
    Posted at 07 August 2016 Reply

    I tried it and it worked pretty well. Questions. The three minutes is after the water returns to boil? I had a problem with pasta( fettuccine) stuck together and not really cooked. Can you stir during the three minutes? During the 10?

  • Paul Daniela Herlihy
    Posted at 15 August 2016 Reply

    Tried this today. Worked well! Thank you for sharing.

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