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Lots of Pasta, Less Water

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2010

If you don't have a pot large enough to handle the amount of water a pasta recipe calls for, don't panic.

Our Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd calls for cooking 3 pounds of spaghetti in at least 10 quarts of water, but we realize that some cooks might not have a pot large enough to hold that much. We’ve successfully cooked a pound of spaghetti in 2 quarts of water—about half of what it usually takes—so we wondered if we could do the same here.

We cooked 3 pounds of spaghetti (with 1½ tablespoons salt) to al dente in 6 quarts of boiling water—and came to the same conclusion as before: As long as we stirred the pasta frequently (we used tongs), the spaghetti was indistinguishable from pasta cooked in the usual far larger quantity of water.

Still, given the choice, we’ll skip all that stirring. As long as we have a pot that’s big enough, we’ll stick to boiling pasta in plenty of water.