Why boil so much more water than pasta actually absorbs, only to pour it down the drain? Couldn’t we cook pasta just as well with much less water and energy?
After some experiments, I’ve found that we can indeed make pasta in just a few cups of water and save a good deal of energy. Not that much in your kitchen or mine — just the amount needed to keep a burner on high for a few more minutes. But Americans cook something like a billion pounds of pasta a year, so those minutes could add up.
So what kind of savings are we talking about?
My rough figuring indicates an energy savings at the stove top of several trillion B.T.U.s. At the power plant, that would mean saving 250,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil, or $10 million to $20 million at current prices.
I was skeptical about McGee's contention that a significantly less water doesn't affect the quality of the cooked pasta. The main reason is that I've always heard that you want plenty of water so that the pasta noodles or threads won't stick to one another (although adding a little oil helps to prevent this too).
Yet McGee says he "had to push the noodles around occasionally to keep them from sticking," but, other than that, he didn't seem to encounter any trouble with the final product.