How much water is needed to boil pasta? (+3 storage tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “How much water is needed to boil pasta?”, and how to cook pasta?

How much water is needed to boil pasta?

On average, 4 to 6 quarts of well-salted water should be used for every pound of pasta. Cooking pasta is a science. If you want to cook the perfect pasta which is neither too tough nor too mushy, you need to read this article. It will provide you a complete guide on how to cook the perfect pasta every time.

How to cook pasta?

Follow the instructions below to cook the perfect pasta for your lasagna, spaghetti, or pasta salad each time.

Stirring at the start is important

An ample amount of water is important for boiling pasta. It helps with the following:

  1. It is easier to submerge the long pasta like spaghetti into a hot boiling pot of a generous amount of water.
  2. It prevents the pasta from sticking.

Speaking of sticking, stirring at the start of boiling pasta is very important. Because it is the time when the starch from the surface of the pasta is dissolving into the water. If not stirred occasionally, the pasta will clump and boil as is.

Add salt, skip the oil

Adding oil to the boiling pasta does not prevent it from sticking. It only prevents the water from overboiling and reaching out of the rim. It also makes the pasta slimy due to which the sauce just slides off the pasta. The pasta ends up tasting bland. 

Adding salt, on the other hand, helps season and add a lot of flavor to the pasta while it absorbs the water to soften.

Hot pasta absorbs more sauce

Mixing hot pasta with the sauce helps the pasta absorb more flavor. When the pasta cools down, the swollen starch converts into an insoluble crystalline form. Therefore, prepare the sauce first and toss the freshly drained al dente pasta into the sauce for maximum flavor absorption.

Pasta cooking water thickens the sauce

The water that you used to boil pasta is enriched with starch. Save some of this water to add into your sauce to act as a thickener. It is not recommended to wash the pasta with cold water after boiling as it removes the surface starch and cools the pasta reducing its ability to absorb the sauce.

Other FAQs about Pasta which you may be interested in.

How to keep the pasta from absorbing all the sauce?

Does Pasta Go Bad?

How long is pasta good in the fridge?

How to salt your pasta water?

Salt is the only flavor of the plain pasta. Therefore, it should be added carefully and according to one’s own preference. A general ratio of water, salt, and pasta is given below to help you get an idea of where to start.

1 lb Pasta: 1 tbsp Salt: 4 quarts or 16 cups of water

One pound of any pasta will taste mildly salty when mixed with 1 tbsp of sea salt or table salt. If you are using kosher salt, that has a milder flavor, use a heaping tbsp or ½ tbsp extra amount. These are just estimations. You can play around with the amount of salt and water and stick to what suits you the most.

How to store pasta?

In the fridge 

Pasta should be stored within 2 hours of preparation. Do not store warm pasta. The moisture trapped inside in the form of steam will favor the growth of harmful bacteria and molds. Let the pasta come to room temperature after cooking. Toss it with some oil like vegetable or olive oil to prevent it from clumping and sticking. 

Store it in an air-tight container at 4°F or below. If the pasta has already been tossed with the sauce, you do not need to add any extra oil. The uncooked pasta should be stored in a dry place away from moisture and heat.

In the freezer

Freezing saucy pasta is not recommended. The sauce will make the pasta soggy. However freeze-storing cooked pasta without sauce provides a quick-fix for meals.

To freeze store pasta, follow the instructions below:

  1. Do not cook the pasta completely. Instead, boil it al dente. This parboiling technique is used by restaurants. Reheating parboiled pasta freshens it up. Toss the pasta in some olive oil to avoid clumping. The pasta will break if it sticks too much.
  2. Spread the pasta on a baking tray and form nests using a fork. Each nest should equal about ½ cup of pasta. Put the tray in the freezer for pre-freezing.
  3. Toss the frozen nests in a freezer bag. Squeeze out all the air and label the bag. Store for up to 8 months.


In this article, we answered the question “How much water is needed to boil pasta?”, and how to cook pasta?