I Just Learned How Much Water Italians Use To Cook Pasta, And I Have Been Doing It Wrong

<span class="copyright">Stefano Madrigali via Getty Images</span>
Stefano Madrigali via Getty Images

These days, I’m a great cook, but until maybe around 5-10 years ago, I was a bad cook who could throw together a pasta dish no problem. If there’s one thing I’ve always been able to do, it’s fire up a pasta dinner.

It’s simple, right? Bit of water, boil it, put some olive oil in, put some pasta in and cook for around 12 minutes until it’s soft, done. Right?!

Well, the fact that I’ve never been to Italy has never been quite as evident as when I recently learned that actually, no, my process is all wrong and I’ve been serving up what I can only describe as an offence to Italians and food-lovers alike.

For starters, did you know there’s a real science to how much water you should use to boil pasta and it isn’t just measured on vibes alone?

How to cook pasta the Italian way

According to the Italian cuisine experts at Eataly, you should use about 4 pints of water for every 450g of pasta. They added: “In general, the more pasta you are cooking, the more water you should use to prevent the pasta from clumping up too much in the pot.”

Additionally, you shouldn’t boil water before adding it to the pasta. Which I definitely wasn’t doing. Ahem.

The experts said: “While warm or hot water will boil faster, it may contain more dissolved minerals from your pipes, giving the water – and anything boiled in it–- a slightly metallic taste.”


As for the hotly-debated subject of adding salt or oil to the water, the experts recommend adding 1-2 teaspoons to the water once it’s boiled. As for adding oil? That’s a big no-no.

Eataly said: “You should never add olive oil to the water or to the pasta after draining. While it might help the pasta strands from sticking to each other, olive oil will also block other sauces from sticking to the pasta.”

Lesson learned.