Cooking Pasta in a Drought

We here in north central Connecticut are in a severe drought.  This is becoming somewhat of the norm in recent years.  I have a well and I’m constantly thinking about ways to save water.  I have a rain barrel to collect some of what comes off the roof.  I capture the water that drips from the window air conditioner and water the umbrella pine with it as the pine likes water and was severely stressed (better now that it’s getting buckets of water from the air conditioner).  And I use the water captured by the dehumidifier in the basement to fill the birdbaths.  There are other ways I conserve water but I won’t go into that. 

Drought Monitor Map CT

Drought Monitor Map CT

The map above shows the severe drought we are experiencing in our part of the state.

I have been planning meals with an eye towards less water consumption and pasta has been off my list for quite some time now.  The recommended cooking method for one pound of pasta requires boiling it in 4 to 5 quarts of water and then draining and rinsing with even more water.  Too wasteful as far as I’m concerned so it was off my menu.

The National Pasta Association facts and figures shown below state that Americans consume 6 billion pounds of pasta each year.

Pasta Consumption in the U. S.

Pasta Consumption in the U. S.

If you use 4 quarts of water to boil one pounds of pasta, then we Americans are using at least 24 billion quarts of water to cook our pasta annually and even more to drain it. That 6 billion gallons of water. 

I had a half box of Barilla gluten free ziti in my pantry for quite a while and I had some really ripe tomatoes that I wanted to make a sauce with.  I wondered if I could cook the pasta directly in the sauce?  I searched the internet and found quite a few articles about cooking pasta in very little water.  The claim was that pasta doesn’t need 4 or 5 quarts of water to cook; the job can be done, and done very well, in much less water.

There were variations of suggestions as to how to do this. Some said to cook 8 ounces of pasta in 1 and 1/2 quarts of boiling water. Some said to put the amount of pasta you want in a pot and add cold water to just cover it.  Starting this way with cold water prevented the pasta from sticking together.  Some said to cover the pot and some said to just stir it occasionally uncovered.  I figured what the heck, I’ll go for starting with cold water in an uncovered pot. I added a little salt to the pot.  Remember, this is gluten free Barilla. I wasn’t sure if it would work as well as regular pasta.

I put the heat at medium high and once the water started to simmer I turned it down to medium.  I stirred it every minute or two and let it continue to simmer.  In about 12 minutes it looked like this and it was very al dente.  I didn’t want the pasta to get mushy so that’s when I took it off the heat.

Al Dente

Al Dente

After standing for about three or four minutes, and a little stirring, this is what it looked like: wp-1473267004026.jpg

Not a drop of water to drain out.  The pasta was cooked perfectly.  I added it to my sauce and voila, a perfect meal with no wasted water. 

This method of cooking works with the shorter cuts of pasta like my ziti. The pasta has to be submerged under the water without sticking out to cook properly. Stirring helps to assure that each piece is submerged.

I could see making macaroni and cheese this way by combining some butter and cheese with the cooked pasta. One pot and no wasted water.  Love it.


One thought on “Cooking Pasta in a Drought

  1. KerryCan

    I had no idea your drought was so severe! I went to the drought site and found that our area is only considered abnormally dry, which surprised me–the lake is SO low, I thought it would be worse. You are being very inventive with your water-saving methods. I hope we all get a lot of rain soon.


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