How Can You Tell When The Pasta Is Ready?

August 9, 2010
pasta on the ceiling, how to tell when the pasta is ready

Most cooking directions for pasta will tell you to cook the noodles for 7-10 minutes to get al dente pasta. Al dente pasta is pasta that is firm but not crunchy. Most of the time I end up with mushy pasta because I don’t use a timer, I will glance at the clock over the stove, so I know how long to cook the noodles, but then I go into my office where the clock is off by a few minutes.
I will pull out a piece of the pasta to taste it for consistency but it’s usually too hot to put in my mouth so I put it on a plate to cool off. By the time I remember about tasting it it has cooled down so much that it has actually lost it’s mushiness, meanwhile the pasta in the pot is still cooking beyond mushy.

The secret to knowing when the pasta is ready, and not burning the hell out of your mouth, is to fling a piece of it up on the ceiling, if it sticks to the ceiling the pasta is ready.

When the pasta sticks to the ceiling it is perfect. If it doesn’t stick you need to cook it longer. Ideally the pasta will stick for a few minutes and then fall off. If it doesn’t fall off after a few minutes you have overcooked your pasta but then it’s too late anyway and you are having mushy pasta.

We’ve been having a lot of mushy pasta lately.

Both kids love to test the pasta so it is a wonder there isn’t more on the ceiling.ย  Unfortunately they think you can test anything this way so they are constantly flinging food up to the ceiling to see if it sticks. Thankfully pancakes and cookies are too heavy and fall back down, whether they are ready or not.

I’m sure you are wondering why I haven’t gotten the stuck on pasta off my ceiling. I’m wondering the same thing too. I knew I had to take a picture of it for the blog so it stayed up for that reason but pretty much laziness and a mild curiosity to see how much pasta would be up there by the end of the summer. I like pasta salads.

I have to say this: The spiral macaroni is from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, the spiral kind. I hate the spiral kind as much as I hate the cartoon character type of Mac and Cheese. They don’t taste any different but they cost more and you get less. I don’t know why this is, it can’t cost more to squeeze our Sponge Bob macaroni at this point. Maybe when they first started making Sponge Bob mac and cheese but it’s been several years that my kids have been begging for cartoon shaped pasta, I am sure they have recovered the cost of the new mold/play doh pumper thingy they use to make the shapes.

So there you have it, pasta is ready when it sticks to the ceiling.

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  • Reply moooooog35 August 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I also use this method to determine if my new pets are compatible.

    I go through a lot of animals.

  • Reply Comedy Plus August 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Your family is out of control. Bwahahahahahaha. Flinging pasta to see if it sticks to the ceiling. Bwahahahahahaha.

    Have a terrific day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:20 am

      It's a lot of fun, you should try it some time.

  • Reply Grace August 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I've always thought that the craziest thing to do. Never tried it. I'm Italian and have been cooking pasta for oh, I don't know 55 years. I can tell it's by looking at it. Package directions are usually useless and some brands take longer to cook than others; then there is the size of the pot you use and how much water. Lately I have turned off the heat just before the pasta is cooked and I let the residual heat finish it off. I don't know why I like this way better but I just feel less rushed…

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:20 am

      I'm Scandahovian, we eat lutefisk (fish cooked in lye) and herring and stuff made with potatoes that have been boiled for days. We have no idea what real al dente is by looking at it.

  • Reply 00dozo August 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    The only thing stuck to our ceiling is hot sauce because somebody (not me, I can't handle the stuff) forgot to screw the cap on tight and, when I went to shake it, the top flew off and the sauce squirted upwards, hitting my eye on the way up.

    Like Grace said, the best way to tell if it's cooked is by looking at it. Or, in a seive spoon, cool a few noodles off under cold water, then taste.

    “Both kids … are constantly flinging food up to the ceiling to see if it sticks.” Don't ever tell them about the bologna and mustard practical joke.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:18 am

      Do you have a picture of the hot sauce on the ceiling?

      That must have hurt your eye something fierce. I remember when ex#1 was cutting jalapenos and didn't wash his hands very well, he then went to lie down on the couch. He is one of those guys who lies on the couch with his hands down his pants holding his junk. I never saw him jump so fast in my life. One of my fonder memories of him.

      • Reply 00dozo August 10, 2010 at 11:55 am

        No, no pictures – that'll just remind me to clean it up. The eye thing hurt for awhile, I was just worried I would go blind! But, no, flushing it out with sugar water helped.

        Ha! My last ex did the same thing – we were at his parent's place and he ate an habanera, then went to pee. About 10 minutes later his eyes went wide in realizing what he had done and then ran to the shower! His mom and I laughed hysterically!

  • Reply Linda Medrano August 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Jen, I think the wall would be just as good as the ceiling. I have 12 foot ceilings and I couldn't get a noodle up there if my life depended on it. Actually, I can just “tell” when it's ready. But I'm older than you and it's all relative. Kids like mushy pasta anyway, so don't worry.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:16 am

      I am sure you can fling a piece of pasta onto a 12 foot ceiling. You aren't short and you wear at least 3 inch heels which means you maybe have about four feet to fling it.

      If I threw it on the wall the dog would be forever licking the wall.

  • Reply Nicky August 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Yup, you can fling it at the wall and it works just like the ceiling, 'cept you don't need a ladder to get it off afterwards. Another trick would be, right after you put the pasta in the water, pop in a CD and listen to 2 or 3 tracks, depending on what you're listening to, songs are usually about 3 minutes each.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:15 am

      But what if you are listening to Thriller, the extended version, or Stairway to Heaven, or even Good Things by the Bodeans? Then what do you do? What if you are listening to all three of them back to back? Then you have really nasty ass pasta. I suppose you could cover it in Cheese in a Can and call it good.

      • Reply Nicky August 10, 2010 at 9:57 am

        If you're listening to those songs back to back, may I suggest ordering in a pizza instead?

  • Reply Joecap3 August 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    I think you can try this method with squab and lamb chops to test for done-ness.

    On a serious note, what I usually do is catch a string of pasta on a fork and right away run cold water over it so I can test it right then.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:14 am

      We don't do squab, in fact we don't know what squab is and are too afraid to google it.

  • Reply joannmannix August 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    My sisters and I have been throwing pasta against the wall since we were little girls. it works every dang time.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:13 am

      Ha! I knew there were other people who did this, and I am proud to say it was you, Soul Sister!

  • Reply Sally August 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I once heard you should throw it at the refrigerator.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:12 am

      I have too many magnets and junk on my refrigerator, that would never work. Besides, the dog would start licking the fridge and I don't want that.

  • Reply Pricilla August 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    The publicist just takes a piece out of the pot, runs it under cold water and eats it.

    Goats don't do pasta.
    Although I have heard of goat being served OVER pasta.
    The horror!

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:12 am

      The horror indeed!

      What fun is it to run cold water on it when you can throw it on the ceiling and then blog about it?

  • Reply babs (beetle) August 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    I just select one strand and see how it cuts against the side of the pan, with the stirring utensil. This way you don't even have to take it out of the saucepan. You can 'feel' the consistency. If it doesn't cut, it's not ready, if it does it's ready. You can usually see when it is ready to test.

    On the other hand, we usually throw ours at the cats. That sticks! No! don't try it. They HATE anything that's sticky, and go berserk ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:11 am

      I've been burned by that method. I've thought they were finished cooking because that one seemed to cut right and then I drain them and they aren't finished. Then what do you do? You are forced to mix your pasta in whatever sauce you have and let it sit there and absorb the sauce which makes it get too mushy for leftovers.

      • Reply babs (beetle) August 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

        I always have a kettle of boiling water ready, to wash the starch off the pasta, so I'd pour it over the pasta and cook it some more.
        Everyone has their own way of doing things. Maybe you could find something else to throw it at. No I don't mean your kids.

  • Reply Tarheel Rambler August 9, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I have a much less messy method of getting perfect pasta…eat at Olive Garden. It does cost a little more. But you have to paint the ceiling less often.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:09 am

      I'd go there for their salad and bread sticks but not for their pasta. I make better pasta than Olive Garden and my kids don't run around like terrors anymore.

  • Reply Janiss August 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    I cannot stand mushy pasta, and I hate very underdone pasta almost as much, so I'm a totally hands-on pasta cook. I let it boil the minimum amount of time it says on the package, or maybe a minute more (unless we're talking about angel hair here), then I take a piece out, cut it in half (or if it's spaghetti, cut off an inch or so piece), and toss the rest back in the water. Then I wave and blow on it until I can bite it. If it is truly al dente, or close (which means the rest of the pasta has been cooking while I'm testing the piece), it's done. If it's still hard, I cook it for minute or so increments until it is.

    Since I always have leftovers (I cook for myself usually – Brian and I rarely share home meals), I tend towards a little more dente. It gets softer when it is warmed up the second time.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:09 am

      I have the same anxiety about the pasta I am testing for a few seconds.

      “OMG, I have to hurry or the pasta I am not testing will be over done because it is cooking for so much longer than this one piece I am going to throw on the ceiling”

  • Reply Mike August 10, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I usually just do a visual test. I scoop up some pasta with a pasta fork, and if it swings easily, it's ready.

    Tortellinis are easy. If they float, they're ready!

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 1:07 am

      Tortellinis don't stick to the ceiling very well, the cheese makes them too heavy, as you probably already know.

      • Reply Mike August 10, 2010 at 3:10 am

        And one should never ever waste even 1 single, delicious tortellini. Of course I'm referring to cheese tortellinis.

  • Reply Chrystal Corliss August 10, 2010 at 2:36 am

    The rant about the miscellaneous types of macaroni cracked me up. So, so true. (Oh, and at my dad's house, I was always throwing spaghetti at the wall. Now I just take out a piece and let it cool just a tad on the stove next to the pot.)

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:21 pm

      It’s more fun to throw it at something, gets out a little stress from the day.

  • Reply Sherilinr August 10, 2010 at 2:37 am

    hahaha! i'm glad my kid doesn't know about this throwing food to the ceiling business because she's not much of a shot & i have doubt we'd be wearing most of that food in our hair. or the walls. eek!

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

      You must get a dog before trying this at home.

  • Reply CatLadyLarew August 10, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Personally, I think the pasta adds some flair to your ceiling…. textured ceilings are kind of an homage to the 70's.

  • Reply Maureen Vellucci August 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    how about just tasting it????? that's what we do….that's what al dante means….to the tooth

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

      That isn’t as much fun and you have to have some cooking skills. And the kids don’t giggle as much.

  • Reply erinlynn76 August 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I usually just burn the shit out of my mouth. I have never tried this method, but I'm giggling. I also suppose it's a good thing this isn't spaghetti or angel hair. That could really freak a girl out.


    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      The whole thing sticks if you fling it right. If part of it is hanging down it won’t stay on the ceiling, the weight will pull it down.

  • Reply Unfinished Rambler August 10, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Like Maureen, one of those whose comments to which you didn’t respond and to which I probably will receive the same fate for stating the obvious ;), I usually just put a fork in it and taste it to see if it’s done. Works for me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, your way sounds like more fun than mine.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm

      I haven’t gotten to everyone yet, give me a break will ya?

      Yes, put a fork in it.

      Not as much fun.

      • Reply Unfinished Rambler August 11, 2010 at 3:01 am

        I was just picking on ya. Relax :). I completely missed responding to one of my posts last week and didn’t realize until this week, so I understand…and I don’t have the numbers of commenters that you have, so in another way, I don’t understand, but I can imagine it can be difficult. If you don’t get to everyone, I’m sure we’ll live.

  • Reply Anne August 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    At this point, you might as well just wait and see how much pasta you can get stuck up there. It’s not like people walk into your house and look right up to the ceiling (although, now that I know, I would).

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

      And, if I’m ever in need of pasta I can just scrape it off the wall. Except for the one that has sauce on it (there is a learning curve to flinging pasta).

  • Reply SLColman August 10, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Does it work for rice pasta??

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      I don’t know, I have never hear of rice pasta. What is rice pasta? I assume
      it would work since it is still a starch and probably sticky. What is the
      benefit of rice pasta and does it taste like rice or pasta?

  • Reply Rachelebennett August 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    We totally throw it on the ceiling…just for fun. Hubster hates it and freaks out…making it even more fun:) That's one of the first lessons I taught the kids about cooking. We have a textured ceiling and I'm pretty good with pasta so there's none lingering.

    I've always wondered why the shape mac and cheese has less in it. I also don't like that it takes longer to cook.

  • Reply sandilynn1975 August 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    now there is one method I haven't tried yet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply El Dente August 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    And now I have more evidence that my father was a wise, if wacky, guy. He taught us when we were little tykes (back in the days of bomb shelters) that they way to know pasta was done was to see if it stuck to the wall when thrown. Not only does it verify your tactic Jen, but it has the added advantage of being able to be peeled off so that you don't have a semolina samba going on your ceiling.

    • Reply redheadranting August 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm

      If you leave it on too long it leaves a mark and needs to be scraped off with a real tool.

      Your father was a wise and wacky guy, my father was horrified to find my brother and me throwing pasta on the ceiling.

  • Reply meleahrebeccah August 10, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I always mess up cooking pasta too. Its always either too crunchy or too mushy!

  • Reply Jayne August 11, 2010 at 12:51 am

    If you ever come to visit, we shall be going out for pasta.

  • Reply Ironic Mom August 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    That cracks me up. I haven’t yet taught my twins this test, but I believe they instinctively have tried to stick it to our floor.

  • Reply Veronica Ten August 14, 2010 at 3:16 am

    I usually take the pasta out and tap it with a fork if the pasta is pliant its ready. If its hard its not.

  • Reply Anonymous August 14, 2010 at 7:22 am

    You are too funny Jen. Cooking pasta at your house sounds like way more fun than it is at my house. Of course I’m Italian, so we’re pretty serious when it comes to our pasta.

  • Reply Miss Corrigan February 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    thank you-my spaghetti came out great

  • Reply Jasonmmiller July 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Been doing this in my family for years. Always works

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