Pasta cooking on a stove

How to cook pasta al dente in 7 steps

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, there’s something satisfying about preparing a simple yet heartwarming meal like pasta for your family. Al dente is typically an ideal pasta texture, and mastering it can help you create a dish that will leave your family wanting more. Read on to learn how to cook pasta al dente and a few tips for a delicious outcome.

What is al dente pasta?

Al dente, an Italian term that translates as “to the tooth,” is a technique in which pasta is cooked to the “ideal” consistency. Rather than having a soft or mushy texture, al dente pasta has a slight but discernible resistance when you bite into it.

Person adding spaghetti to boiling water Person adding spaghetti to boiling water

How long do you cook pasta al dente?

To achieve an al dente texture, it is suggested to cook your pasta for a shorter duration than what’s indicated on the packaging. The cooking time will depend on the type of pasta, but typically al dente pasta is cooked about two or three minutes less than the packaging indicates. These days, many packages also include cooking directions for cooking al dente pasta. Pasta’s al dente texture keeps it from becoming too soft when sauce is added.

Can you overcook pasta?

It is possible to overcook pasta by leaving it in the water too long. Overcooked pasta can lose both its taste and texture. Overcooking can also cause the pasta's starch and nutrients to be left behind in the water.

Al dente pasta cooking chart


Al dente estimated cook time

PastaEgg noodles Al dente estimated cook time6-8 minutes
PastaElbow macaroni Al dente estimated cook time6-8 minutes
PastaFarfalle Al dente estimated cook time11-13 minutes
PastaFettuccine Al dente estimated cook time9-11 minutes
PastaMostaccioli Al dente estimated cook time10-12 minutes
PastaPenne Al dente estimated cook time7-11 minutes
PastaRigatoni Al dente estimated cook time10-13 minutes
PastaRotini Al dente estimated cook time6-8 minutes
PastaShells Al dente estimated cook time7-9 minutes
PastaSpaghetti Al dente estimated cook time6-8 minutes

Al dente pasta recipe

Al dente is the sweet spot where pasta reaches its peak of texture and flavor. Read on to learn how to cook pasta al dente so you can create a comforting home-cooked meal for your family. Keep in mind that exact servings and cook times will depend on the type of pasta you choose and the amount you are making.


6 servings

  • Your choice of dry pasta noodles

  • Water

  • Sea salt

Prep time

12 minutes


Cook time

9 minutes

Total time

21 minutes

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Step 1: Add water and boil

First, add water to your saucepan according to the directions. Cover and turn the heat on high. Allow the water to reach a boil.

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Step 2: Add salt

Next, carefully remove the lid and add sea salt to the boiling water. Typically, a generous tablespoon works well per 12 cups of water.

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Step 3: Add pasta and reduce heat

Now that your water is boiling and salted, it’s time to add your pasta. Carefully add the pasta to the boiling water, stir and reduce the heat to medium.

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Step 4: Stir

Continue stirring your pasta every few minutes as it cooks.

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Step 5: Remove water, if desired

This step is optional. If you’d like or if it’s necessary for your recipe, you can now use a ladle or measuring cup to remove a cup of starchy pasta water to mix with your sauce later.

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Step 6: Drain pasta

The pasta should be tender yet still retain its firmness when you drain the water into a colander over the sink or use a strainer spoon to remove it from the pan.

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Step 7: Return pasta and add sauce

Once your pasta is cooked al dente, you can return it to the empty saucepan or add it to a pan of your favorite sauce. You can use the reserved pasta water, a little bit at a time, to help your sauce reach the perfect consistency.

 Pasta and vegetables  Pasta and vegetables

Al dente pasta cooking tips

  • Do not rinse pasta when it is done cooking unless you are planning to use the pasta for a cold dish. Rinsing the pasta removes the starch that helps sauces adhere.

  • Use a large pot for short pasta and a tall pot for long pasta.

  • Remember to decrease the cooking time noted on the pasta’s box by about two to three minutes to achieve al dente texture. 

  • Ensure there is enough water in your pot for the pasta to move around freely.

How do you store pasta?

Once cooled, you can store cooked pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. It is best, if you can, to store the pasta and sauce separately.

Can you reboil undercooked pasta?

You can reboil undercooked pasta. If you’ve already added the sauce to the undercooked pasta, you can return it to the stove. Simply pour it back into a pot, add some water to help prevent the sauce from thickening too much and stir the pasta occasionally. Ensure it’s fully cooked by testing a piece before removing it from the stove.

If the pasta hasn’t been mixed with sauce yet, you can heat it up on the stove. Place it in boiling water and let it simmer for a few more minutes until it reaches the desired al dente texture. You can use a fork to cut into a piece to check if it’s done. A tender inside indicates that it’s ready to be eaten.

For a quicker option, you can also microwave the undercooked pasta. Place it in a microwave-safe bowl, submerge the noodles in water, and microwave it for about a minute. However, remember that this method may not yield the same quality as pasta cooked on the stove. It can be useful when you’re in a hurry, though.

Explore Whirlpool® Cooktops and Ranges

Create delicious al dente pasta for your next dinner or bake a lasagna between practices on a busy weeknight, all with your Whirlpool® Cooktop or Range. Select models include features like SpeedHeat Burners to help you get dinner on the table fast and Air Fry Mode to help you cook fried food without the excess oil.

Learn more about cooktops and ranges with Whirlpool brand

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