Generally, the best cooking time for spaghetti noodles is 7-12 minutes in boiling water. You should cook store-bought plain spaghetti for 5-10 minutes, depending on the spaghetti type. You can also follow package instructions on the spaghetti box, then try the spaghetti to see if it’s done enough to your preference.
Cooking a bowl of spaghetti is easier than most dishes. All you’ve got to do is put it in boiling water with some salt and watch it come to life.
When it comes to cooking spaghetti noodles, there are so many variables that many people, unfortunately, don’t think about. For example:
- What type of spaghetti are you cooking?
- Is it going to be dipped in sauce or served with sauce?
- How high is the heat?
We’ll run through all the variables to consider when deciding how long to cook spaghetti and how to cook the best spaghetti below.
What Does Al Dente Mean?
You may have come across the term ‘al dente’ in a cooking show, a book, or a restaurant scene in a movie. It’s not as fancy as you may think. It simply means “to the tooth” or “with a slight bite.”
Al dente is the perfect and healthier way to cook spaghetti. The body absorbs and digests al dente slower than overcooked pasta.
What Type of Spaghetti are You Cooking?
There are different cooking methods for spaghetti. As a rule of thumb, you should cook dry spaghetti for 8-12 minutes. You don’t have to soak dry pasta in cold water before cooking.
Thicker spaghetti, such as spaghettoni, takes longer to become soft. However, angel hair, sometimes called capelli d’aneglo, and other thin spaghetti can reach al dente before this time.
It’s best to cook spaghetti made from legumes, peas, beans, and lentils on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. They can easily get hardened by high heat, so it’s best to keep the heat mid-range.
You don’t need to cook cheaper spaghetti at a rolling boil as they tend to break more easily. Instead, temper the heat and mix with a spatula twice or thrice.
Some handmade or Italian kitchen spaghetti tastes better when you slowly add them to boiling water and lower the heat afterward.
How Do You Know When Spaghetti is Done?
The best way to know if your spaghetti is done is to do a taste test. Just grab a fork or a spaghetti tong, twirl some spaghetti around it, and see if it’s chewy enough for you. Usually, this depends on how you like your spaghetti.
You can also break off the end of a strand, and if the middle of the strand appears to be a bright dot, it’s a sure sign that your spaghetti is not done. Well-done spaghetti should have a solid color from edge to edge, with no discoloration in the middle.
Traditionally, a well-done spaghetti should have some texture, but it shouldn’t feel chewy. It should not be crunchy, gummy, or sticky, and shouldn’t stick to your teeth.
Should I Add Oil to My Pot When Cooking Spaghetti?
Adding olive oil to your pot when cooking pasta or spaghetti is not bad. Many people do this to prevent spaghetti from sticking together. Some also add it for flavor.
However, you don’t need to add olive oil to the pot to prevent each piece of pasta from sticking. You should just ensure that you add enough cups of cooking water to cover the spaghetti and bring it to a boil before adding it.
Then keep the heat up and steady as you cook. Adding oil to your spaghetti makes it hard for the sauce to adhere to it, especially if you plan to mix the pasta in sauce. This will leave your food wanting.
The ideal water temperature should be above 180° Fahrenheit but below 215 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because starch components need hot water. For example, spaghetti cooked on medium heat is partially hydrolyzed starch, which just doesn’t look or taste the same.
However, you don’t need a thermostat to determine this. It’s enough to see the water bubbling on the surface.
Still, adding olive oil gives your spaghetti a nice flavor. So, if you prefer the flavor and are cooking the spaghetti noodles plain, you can add a few drops.
Also, it’s always best to serve spaghetti fresh. Nothing worse for plain, sticky spaghetti than keeping it sitting for a long time. This is how it takes the shape of a pan or a cooler.
Does Salt Make Spaghetti Cook Faster?
Salt can bump up the cooking time for most foods, and it’s the same for spaghetti. However, the amount you need to add matters.
Different spaghetti types react to salt differently. The exact effect can vary based on the type and brand. Still, you need a lot of salt for it to matter, think higher than 6% salinity level, which tastes almost like seawater.
Some chefs cook spaghetti in very salty water and keep it on high heat for 5-6 minutes. Then they drain it and cook it for 2-3 minutes until it’s al dente.
Should You Rinse Spaghetti in Cold Water?
You can rinse your spaghetti in cold water when using it to make a cold pasta salad. Most chefs recommend rinsing because you don’t need the taste of starch to penetrate the other ingredients. Besides, starchiness in pasta salad will only cause your spaghetti to stick together. But it’s best to go for another kind of pasta entirely when making cold pasta salad.
There’s no need to rinse your spaghetti before serving. When you bring your spaghetti out of the pot, it still has some starchy layer, but many people like this because it helps it cling to the sauce better.
Tips for Making the Best Spaghetti
Here are some tips to help you make the most delicious non-sticky spaghetti.
- Bring the water to a boil before adding the spaghetti.
- Don’t add oil. Instead, add enough water to cover the spaghetti.
- Stir the spaghetti from time to time while cooking.
- Keep your starch water to incorporate into your sauce, or mix the spaghetti with the sauce in the same pot you used to cook the spaghetti first.
- Use the right kitchen tool. For example, you can use fork-like prongs or spaghetti tongs for stirring, draining, and serving.
- When pressed for time, you can make instant pot spaghetti noodles with the right pasta recipe.
The answer to the question, “how long do you cook spaghetti noodles?” is 7-12 minutes. Anything beyond this cooking time, your spaghetti will overcook, which is unacceptable if you want to serve it to an Italian.
Still, it’s not rocket science. It’s best to try out what texture tastes best to you with 20-second taste tests after the first five minutes of cooking. This will help you make the perfect pasta dish!