The delicious end result. Picture: Tristan LutzeSource:Supplied
The delicious end result. Picture: Tristan LutzeSource:Supplied

The spaghetti test: Is there a better way to cook pasta?

WHILE they may all have differing ideas on how to prepare the perfect steak, the creamiest risotto or the softest cupcakes, there's one thing all the great chefs agree on: Cooking pasta.

Whether you turn to JamieNigellaGordon or Heston for advice, the method for flawless spaghetti is the same. And the chances are, it's exactly what you (and your parents, and their parents, etc.) already do:

• Fill a big pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil.

• Add some salt

• Drop in your pasta

• Cook until al dente

• Drain the pasta, reserving a small amount of the cooking liquid to help emulsify the sauce

But this is 2017, and we're all hungry for exciting different ways of doing things.

This week, an alternate theory for cooking pasta has resurfaced. Demonstrated in this 2011 video by esteemed food writer Harold McGee, the pasta is covered with cold water rather than being submerged into boiling, and the whole thing cooked in a frying pan rather than a saucepan.


The method is superior, advocates say, because you're using less water. This means it comes to the boil more quickly, and the pasta water left at the end is thicker and starchier, and therefore even better in your sauce.

Additionally, because the pasta starts cooking as the water is heating, the whole exercise will shave entire minutes from your kitchen time; time we agree is much more valuably spent enjoying your pasta along with a nice glass of red wine.

But is it actually quicker? And is there any real difference to the taste or consistency?


I grabbed a big pot, filled it with water, added salt, brought it to the boil and cooked until al dente. And timed it.

Then, using the same stovetop set to the same temperature, the same brand of cookware, the same ratio of salt to water and the same pasta brand, I tried it again, this time using a frying pan and cold water (a whole lot less water). Again I timed it.

Tristan Lutze put the frying pan pasta theory to the test. Picture: Tristan LutzeSource:Supplied
Tristan Lutze put the frying pan pasta theory to the test. Picture: Tristan LutzeSource:Supplied

The results were undeniable. The original method took, from the moment the cooktop was powered on, 20 minutes and 42 seconds. The frying pan method took 15:12. That's over 5 minutes of time saved.

But 10 minutes of the initial test's time was spent waiting for the water to boil, so I tried it again, this time using a kettle to boil the water, pouring it into the big pot and adding the pasta.

The total time from the moment the kettle was switched on until the pasta was done? 16:04.

But what about the flavour and the consistency? I served both with a drizzle of Australian extra virgin olive oil, some sauteed garlic, sliced red chilli, freshly cracked black pepper, parsley and two tablespoons of the pasta water, topped with some grated parmesan.

While the consistency of the pasta was identical using both methods, the concentrated pasta water produced with the frying pan method - when combined with the olive oil- was thicker and more luscious, clinging to each strand of pasta like cream on a spoon. The pot water, by contrast, produced a thin, watery base that barely combined with the olive oil.

So, ultimately, the test proved successful. The initial time saving was easily mitigated with a kettle, and although the resultant pasta was identical in each test, the pasta water was demonstrably more effective and delicious from the frying pan.

The internet can be an unreliable adviser, with plenty of incredible timesaving viral "tricks" coming undone the moment you actually attempt them.

But this is no new trick, and although it's not the preferred method of our food idols, it's got a pretty strong following among professional foodies. It might not be much quicker, but it's better, and when it comes to pasta, that's the most important thing.

Tristan Lutze is a Sydney based food writer and photographer. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

News Corp Australia

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