How to Cook Perfect Angel Hair Pasta
Pasta is already seen by many home cooks to be the quick weeknight meal of choice, but I like to make it even quicker by using angel hair pasta for my rushed weeknight meals. I would guess we have angel hair pasta with some sort of sauce at least once a week at house Macheesmo. Cooking perfect angel hair pasta well though can be a trick because it’s SO thin and fragile.
Cooking perfect angel hair pasta is pretty straightforward, but I think many starter cooks get caught up with the instructions on the box (just throw those out). You will almost certainly overcook your pasta if you follow those.
Made correctly though, angel hair pasta is one of my favorite pastas. Kids also love it because it’s so thin and easy to eat. It can be ready in literally 10 minutes so it should be in your pantry for sure!
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid bowl. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water to salt the water generously.
- Add marinara sauce and butter to a medium skillet over low heat. Swirl together to warm sauce and melt butter.
- Add angel hair pasta and cook for 90 seconds before starting to test. You can probably ignore the timing on the box of pasta.
- When the pasta no longer holds it’s shape when pulled out with tongs and completely falls to gravity, it’s done and ready to transfer. It should still have a small bite to it at this point.
- Pull pasta straight from water and add to skillet with sauce. Toss together with sauce and add enough pasta water so the pasta doesn’t look dry. The sauce should be silky and lightly coat the pasta.
- Simmer pasta and sauce together for one minute.
- Transfer pasta to plates and garnish with parmesan. Serve while warm!
Perfect Angel Hair Pasta
To make things even more confusing, there isn’t really a standard size for what is called angel hair pasta. I’ve seen thin and very thin. Yet another reason to learn to cook it based on sight and texture and forget about exact times.
As with any pasta, but probably more so than spaghetti, you need a lot of salted water to make angel hair. It cooks very quickly so you want to make sure the pasta has plenty of room to move around in the little amount of time it will be in the water. I usually shoot for about 4 quarts of water and a tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring that to a boil and toss in the pasta!
The angel hair pasta I buy says to cook this pasta for five minutes. If you do that, you will be very disappointed with the soggy results.
Instead, I start with 90 seconds. Then I start checking the pasta. For angel hair, since it’s so thin, you can test it by using tongs to pull it out of the water. The pasta should completely give to gravity. If it has any stiffness to it, then it needs more time. And when I say more time, I mean maybe another 30 seconds.
I tried to catch a snapshot of this phase. This pasta isn’t quite done yet.
You want to remove the pasta when it’s completely relaxed, but still has a tiny bite to it. For me, this was two minutes for this particular batch. That’s it. TWO MINUTES!
The pasta isn’t quite done cooking yet though.
Phase two to cook perfect angel hair pasta is to finish it in a sauce. This could be a butter sauce, cream sauce, or tomato sauce. Finishing it in the sauce allows it to finish cooking slowly and also lets the sauce penetrate the pasta a bit. Move it straight from pasta water to sauce. No straining! You want all that extra pasta water.
For this version, my sauce was a mix of marinara and butter.
After a minute or two in a skillet with the sauce over medium-low heat, the pasta will be perfectly coated with sauce. If it seems too dry, add more pasta water to thin it out.
This is what perfect angel hair pasta looks like!
Divide it between plates and garnish with parmesan cheese and a little fresh black pepper. Delicious, and most importantly, FAST.