20 Dec Pasta Rules of Thumb
A few bits of helpful information when cooking pasta — particularly useful if the package is in a foreign language or there isn’t one!
Uncooked vs. Cooked Pasta
- Dried pasta doubles in volume when you cook it.
For a main course, one serving is generally:
- 4 ounces OR 1/4 pound OR 1/10 kilogram OR 1 cup uncooked (medium-size)
- For “long” pasta like spaghetti or fettucine, one portion is about a 3/4″ diameter bunch — this is about the size of an average woman’s thumb (easy to remember as truly a “rule of thumb”!)
For a side dish, one serving is about half the size of a main dish.
Fresh Pasta vs. Dried Pasta
- Use 1-1/2 times as much fresh pasta as dried.
- Fresh pasta takes about half the time to cook as dried.
- Fresh pasta does NOT store well in a boat.
Substituting One Shape for Another
- In general, it’s best to substitute a similar size pasta for what was called for in a recipe. That said, I find that it’s often good on passage to use “bite sized” pasta such as rotini or penne instead of long types like spaghetti or linguine — it stays on a fork much better with the motion of the boat.
- Really small types of pasta — the little stars and so forth — are best only in soups or salads.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt per serving to the cooking water.
Bring the water to a full boil, then add the pasta and bring back to a full boil before lowering the temperature.
How Much Water to Use
Purists say to use as much water as possible to avoid stickiness. Most cruisers use just enough water to cover the pasta for several reasons:
- Full pans of boiling water on a boat are more likely to slop over and cause burns — this is even a bigger problem underway or in a rolly anchorage.
- Conserving water
- Conserving propane or other fuel — the more water, the more fuel it takes to heat it
Add Oil or Not?
Some people add oil to the cooking water, others don’t. Here are the reasons — take your pick:
- Adding 1 teaspoon of olive oil or canola oil to the cooking water will keep the pot from foaming over BUT
- If you use oil, the sauce won’t stick as well to the pasta. (NOTE: If you’re making a butter sauce, this isn’t an issue.)
Cooking time varies considerably depending on how “sturdy” the pasta is. Sturdier types like fettucine, rotini and penne will be “al dente” in about 8 to 10 minutes from when the water begins to boil after adding the pasta.
If you are cooking pasta that will be further cooked in another dish (such as a casserole), it’s best to slightly undercook it.
I’m sure there are other “rules of thumb” and cooking tips — add yours in the comments below.