How to Cook Pasta, 3 Easy Ways

How to cook pastaPasta is great as it is quick and easy to cook, stores well and cheap to buy and very versatile in dishes. There are many different ways to cook pasta, on the stove in a pan, in the microwave or in a slow cooker and in actual dishes.

Here we explore some of the basics of how to cook pasta using each of the methods so that you can add it to many different meals and add sauces to it to make meals. Once you have the basics you can expand your pasta usage to all sorts of exciting dishes.

Pasta is easy to measure out and cook for both families and for one person. Becuase it is cheap to buy, versatile and very filling it is great for those on a budget.  There are many different pasta types and also great pasta based recipes to choose from as well.

How to Cook Pasta

a portion of spaghetti

Pasta makes so many different things with everything from sausage pasta bake to spaghetti bolognese or Marconi cheese. I usually have a few different types of dried pasta shapes including shells, twists, penne pasta, and Tagliatelle. Most people used dried pasta for ease as it keeps really well.

How Much Pasta do You Need for One Portion?

  • If you are using dried pasta work out your amounts by weight as the volume is not a good indication due to the different sizes of pasta.  Weigh out your pasta according to packet instructions.  Different types of pasta portion recommendations are different weights.
  • If cooking spaghetti use a ring sizer to check amounts. Alternatively, one portion is about the circle between your index finger and thumb.
  • If using fresh pasta use about 100g per person.

Save money on the sauce Pasta swells a lot so don’t add extra or you will find you have too much.  Take the time to weigh it.  Believe me, I know, I have overestimated the amounts many a time – lesson learned!

Cook Pasta In a Pan On The Stove

Most people will cook basic pasta on the stove and use a pan. This is quick and easy and how most packets recommend you to cook your pasta

Equipment Needed

  • A Large Saucepan
  • A Wooden spoon
  • A Colander
  1. Boil some water in a pan or in a kettle
  2. Weigh your pasta per person as per the packet quantities for your type of pasta
  3. Place the pasta and water into the saucepan
  4. Bring back to the boil
  5. Stir your pasta to prevent sticking to the pan
  6. Add your salt if you are using it
  7. When the pasta is ready it will be soft simply drain using a colander and serve

200 Pasta Recipes: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook (Hamlyn All Colour Cookery)

How to Cook Pasta In the Microwave for Speed

Cooking pasta in your microwave is easy enough. Although it is not really any faster, in fact depending on your hob it can even take a bit longer to cook.

It is recommended that you need to add an extra 3-4 minutes to the cooking time on the packet when you are cooking pasta in your microwave. I think this is because people put in their pasta and cold water and then bring the water to the boil. While I confess I am a bit naughty and put in boiling water when cooking on the hob, I just find it easier. I just have to be extra careful it doesn’t stick together. This is because my hob is a pain and takes forever to get hot. So, anything that can reduce that time is good.  Even a 3-4 minute add-on is actually less than the heat up time for my hob – a lot less!

Equipment Needed

You don’t need any special equipment to cook your pasta in the microwave just the basics. However, you can use bowls designed especially for the microwave too as they make it easier.

  • Microwavable bowl/container large enough for all your pasta and enough water to cover the pasta and be 4cm or so deeper than the pasta. I recommend that you stick to a glass bowl rather than plastic unless you have a specialist microwave pasta cooker as some people have has issues with burning the bottom of the bowls if they have not stirred the pasta enough or put in enough water.
  • Colander
  • Spoon


  • Pasta (don’t use long pasta unless you have a proper pasta cooker, the smaller twists and tubes are better for microwave cooking)
  • Salt
  • Water
  1. Measure out your pasta portions per person depending on the pasta type and the recommended weight needed (this is usually about 75g per person for wheat pasta and 100g for gluten free pasta and 100g for fresh pasta). Check the packet for portion size recommendations.
  2.  Put in enough cold water to completely cover your pasta and then add more to allow for the pasta to expand and to absorb some of the water.  Too much is better than not enough. so for a standard guide for 100g pasta double it and then add 100ml = 300ml of water.
  3. Pop your bowl into the microwave and put onto full heat and cook for between 13-15 minutes (adjust the time depending on pack instructions remembering to allow the extra 3-4 minutes needed to cook in a microwave). Make sure you check throughout cooking to make sure the water hasn’t run dry and to stir to prevent your pasta from sticking to the bowl.
  4. When the pasta is cooked and soft remove from the microwave and drain it in your colander. Be careful as depending on your container it may be hot. Als watch out for any steam as this can easily catch your hand or arms.
  5. Serve as it is or with a sauce.

You might like to get a microwave pasta cooker or steamer to reduce the amount of steam and make your cooking easier. This also means you can cook all types of pasta in your microwave. There are several types of microwave pasta cooker to choose from on Amazon.


You Can Cook Pasta In a Slow Cooker 

This is one of those areas where there are a lot of differing opinions on how or even if you should cook your pasta in a slow cooker. I have used my slow cooker and popped in pasta with it as a thickener and it comes out as a soft mush.  The slow cooker is not really the best place to cook pasta and certainly not on its own. Pasta is quick and easy to cook, whereas the slow cooker is designed, well to be slow. The two don’t mix brilliantly.  There are so many ways to cook pasta on its own that it is best to do that and then add it at the end.

Where using a slow cooker might work best is if you are adding those tiny pasta shells to thicken a soup or casserole.

The best way to cook your pasta in your slow cooker is to wait until what you are cooking has almost cooked and then add it and stir it in with half an hour to spare. Make sure there is enough liquid to cook the pasta in and that your cooker is on a higher setting. Remember though that if you lift the lid of your cooker you may need to add extra cooking time (I do on my slow cooker but others may be different, check your instructions if in doubt).

Pasta For One Person

When cooking pasta for one person there is little difference in the method used. You can still use any of the methods described here from hob to microwave to slow cooker. What you need to watch out for is the quantity of pasta you use.  It is really easy to put too much pasta in or not enough water.  So it is best to weigh it to make sure you are not using too much. Again as a general guide 75g of dried pasta, or 100g or fresh or dried gluten free pasta. With spaghetti, you can get a measuring circle to correctly work out how much you need. It is also probably best to get dried so as not to waste it.


How To Stop Your Pasta From Sticking to the Pan

The best way to stop your past from sticking to the pan is to make sure your water is boiling when you put your pasta into the pan and to use plenty of water. Make sure you stir your pasta as it is put into the pan and also while it is cooking to keep it from settling on the bottom of the pan. You also need to use a large saucepan to allow your pasta to move around a lot.

A Final Note

So that’s cooking pasta basics and the various options. It is a good idea to try out the different methods to see which one suits you best. The quickest and easiest ways in my view are the hob and the microwave. Let us know how you get on and which method you prefer.

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