Cooking Tips

How to Cook Angel Hair Pasta

For perfectly al dente strands, throw out the rule book on pasta cookery.
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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.

Recipe

Angel Hair Pasta with Basil, Caper, and Lemon Sauce

For perfectly al dente strands, throw out the rule book on pasta cookery.
Get the Recipe

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.

Angel Hair Pasta with Basil, Caper, and Lemon Sauce

For perfectly al dente strands, throw out the rule book on pasta cookery.
Get the Recipe

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