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Cold Water Method Pasta

Start cooking pasta in cold water for quicker cook times and extra-starchy pasta water that's perfect for finishing sauces.
Once upon a time, I made a show called Good Eats. And way back in 1999 I made an episode about dry pasta called “Use Your Noodle,” in which I stated that I never cook pasta in anything less than a gallon of boiling water.
At that time, I had not yet developed the instinct to question the classically held notions that had been pounded into my head by people with tall hats and funny accents. In the years since, I’ve learned that the big-pots-of-boiling-water paradigm is quite simply a myth.
In fact, starting your pasta in cold water has a myriad of benefits: It takes less energy to heat, it takes less time since the noodles come to a boil with the water, and you end up with concentrated starchy cooking water that gives a silky, creamy finish to pasta sauces. Just be sure to remove your pasta with a spider strainer rather than draining it into the sink.
And although I may be blocked from ever entering Italy again for saying this: I have come to prefer the texture of dry pasta started in cold water.
This recipe first appeared in Season 1 of Good Eats: Reloaded.
Alton Brown's Cold Water Pasta Method
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


  • 64 fluid ounces cold water
  • 1 (16-ounce) box dry pasta, farfalle, rigatoni, penne, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Specialized Hardware

  • Spider strainer


  • Combine all ingredients in a 4 1/2-quart pot, cover, and set over medium-high heat.
  • When water boils, decrease heat to maintain a simmer. Remove the lid, stir and cook for 4 minutes 30 seconds or until al dente.
  • Remove pasta with spider.