How Much Water You Should Really Use To Cook Pasta?

It's no secret that Italians tend to hold pretty passionate opinions on the proper way to cook and enjoy their national cuisine — even inspiring social media accounts dedicated to documenting their culinary fervor when someone commits a cardinal sin of Italian cooking, liking putting pineapple on pizza or boiling pasta in milk (via MIC).

And when it comes to cooking the food that Italy is perhaps best known for — pasta — Italian cooks predictably uphold a number of strict rules for cooking the perfect pot, ranging from the proper cooking time and water temperature to the salt quantity and amount of water. So, how much water is just the right amount for preparing the perfect Ragù alla Bolognese or Bucatini Cacio e Pepe?

When it comes to cooking pasta, the quantity of water is key to preventing the pasta from overcrowding or clumping up in the pot. According to the experts at Eataly, the high-end Italian marketplace that even has its own food-themed park in Bologna, Italy, a good rule of thumb for the ratio of water to pasta is 4 quarts of boiling water for each pound of pasta.

Chefs recommend between 4-6 quarts of water per pound of pasta

However, some cooks believe that more water is required to cook a proper pasta. According to the New York Times, celebrity chef and Italian cooking expert Lidia Bastianich stands by using 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta, but noted that reducing the amount of water to 4 quarts still produces an acceptable dish. In general, the quantity tends to fluctuate between 4–6 quarts of water depending on the cookbook, chef, or pasta box being consulted.

As Smithsonian Magazine notes, the size of the pot also matters when it comes to cooking pasta. For the best result, cooks should use a 6–8 quart pasta pot filled about ¾ of the way to the top for 1 pound of pasta. This pot size gives the noodles plenty of room to expand throughout the cooking process without sticking together.

Despite slight variances in the recommended amount of pasta cooking water, there are a couple of rules just about every experienced Italian chef and home cook agrees on: season your water with plenty of sale grosso, or 'big salt,' add your pasta only once the water comes to a rapid boil and cook your pasta just to al dente (via Eataly). And never break your noodles in half before cooking them — which is all but guaranteed to elicit a passionate reaction from the Italian in your life.