Skip to main content
Recipes

How to Cook Angel Hair Pasta

For perfectly al dente strands, throw out the rule book on pasta cookery.
By Published Apr. 1, 2020

My Goals and Discoveries

Al dente pasta

Taking the time to taste-test a strand or following the package directions will lead to overcooked angel hair. Use our recommended cooking times instead.

Quick sauce

Angel hair needs just a minute or two of cooking, so we make a raw sauce that can be thrown together in the time it takes to boil water. A bold, pesto-like mixture fits the bill.

Pasta coated in fluid sauce

Ultrafine angel hair has the capacity to soak up lots of liquid. Adding plenty of pasta cooking water to the sauce keeps it fluid enough to coat the thirsty strands.

Angel hair might just be the least popular pasta variety out there. I get it: With an average diameter of less than 1 millimeter, angel hair pasta is so delicate that treating it like standard-issue noodles guarantees a disappointing tangle of mush. It was only when I ignored all conventional wisdom about pasta cookery that I was able to produce results that I could get truly excited about. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Test for Doneness

Superfine angel hair goes from pleasantly tender to hopelessly overcooked in a heartbeat. That means that in the few seconds required to taste-test a strand, the rest of the pot could overcook. And I don’t recommend following the cooking time on the box, as it’s generally too long. Instead, I eliminated any guesswork by determining exactly how long to boil three top-selling brands.

Don’t Finish in the Sauce

Unlike other pasta shapes that benefit from a few final minutes of simmering in sauce, angel hair is too fragile to withstand more exposure to heat once it is drained. I found that it’s best to toss angel hair with light, no-cook sauces. (This also means that dinner comes together in the time it takes to boil the water.)

No Time to Taste-Test

Because angel hair is so fine, it can overcook even in the few seconds it takes to sample a strand for doneness. Instead, follow our recommended cooking times below.

Add Lots of Pasta Cooking Water

Ultrafine angel hair contains more strands per ounce than thicker cuts such as spaghetti and fettuccine and therefore has more surface area with the capacity to absorb a great deal of liquid. To achieve an ideal consistency, it is necessary to incorporate a generous amount of pasta cooking water into the sauce—up to 1½ cups, depending on the recipe.

Make Pesto (Sort Of)

It’s important to start the sauce with a concentrated mixture that won’t be overly diluted by the cooking water. I make a pesto-like sauce but reserve the cheese for sprinkling while serving since it thickens the sauce and makes it hard to toss with the delicate strands.

Our fine-tuned approach results in perfectly al dente angel hair lightly coated in a flavorful sauce.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.