How to Cook Spaghetti

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Four to six


Appears in

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1969

  • About

The cooking of spaghetti is simplicity itself although there are apparently two common yet easily avoidable pitfalls that befall some cooks. The first is having the strands of spaghetti stick together; the other is overcooking.

The kettle in which the spaghetti is cooked should have at least a four-quart capacity.

One pound of spaghetti, the contents of one package, should be cooked in at least 3 quarts of water. A two-pronged fork should be on hand for immersing the spaghetti when it is added to the water. Here is how to cook perfect spaghetti.


  1. Bring at least 3 quarts of water to a roaring boil. Add tablespoons salt.

  2. Add 1 pound of spaghetti (or less, if desired) while the water is boiling. Using a two-pronged fork, immediately start folding the spaghetti from the bottom to immerse it as quickly as possible in the water. The water must continue to boil constantly and the more rapidly the better. Stir the spaghetti with the fork until all strands are bubbling free.

  3. The cooking time for spaghetti varies from brand to brand and depends also on the size spaghetti. No.9 spaghetti, called spaghettini, cooks in approximately 8 or 9 minutes. Thicker spaghetti takes longer. To test for doneness, lift a strand of spaghetti from the boiling water and bite into it. It should be tender but with a slight resilience or, as the Italians say, al dente. Of course, if you like spaghetti well done, by all means cook it until soft.

  4. When the spaghetti is done, immediately add 1 cup of cold water to the kettle. This will stop the cooking without chilling the spaghetti. Immediately empty the spaghetti into a colander to drain.

  5. Have a hot platter ready with 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter in it. Add the spaghetti and toss. Serve immediately with any of the tomato sauces outlined in this book plus their variations.

    Of course, a good-quality spaghetti is excellent with only butter and Parmesan cheese.