The pleasures of square spaghetti pasta are many. Square spaghetti, also called spaghetti alla chitarra, are a square (technically, rectangular) variation of the classic spaghetti noodle from Southern Italy’s Abruzzo region.
Square spaghetti holds its shape well, even when cooked for long periods of time, and can stand up to hearty and meaty sauces, like Bolognese. This makes them a perfect pasta for a comforting home-cooked meal in the windy fall and snowy winter.
But how long does square spaghetti pasta take to cook? See below for the answer.
How Long to Boil Square Spaghetti
The Long Story Short
How to cook: In a pot of salted water brought to a full boil
How long to cook: 12-13 minutes for al dente, 14-15 minutes for soft
Tips: Don’t add butter or olive oil to the cooking water and don’t rinse the noodles before or after cooking.
As a rule of thumb, square spaghetti pasta takes 12-13 minutes to cook al dente and 14-15 minutes to cook to soft. When in doubt, refer to the cooking instructions on the package.
It’s important to note that this is only an approximation. If you’re following a recipe, the same applies to the cooking time given by the author. Because the only way to tell if your square spaghetti pasta is done is to fish it out of the pot and taste it.
Square spaghetti cooked al dente are tender on the inside but still slightly firm. Some would even say that they’re a little crunchy on the outside. This is how they like their pasta in Italy.
In contrast, square spaghetti cooked soft—the preferred way of cooking pasta in America—are gelatinous and squashy.
Although pasta traditionalists would balk at the idea of cooking their square spaghetti to any other level of doneness than al dente, how you cook your pasta is up to you. Al dente pasta is said to be better because it holds its shape on the plate and, since it isn’t cooked to mushy, it’s supposedly easier for your stomach to digest.
How to Cook Square Spaghetti Pasta
Cook your square spaghetti pasta in a large pot of liberally salted boiling water.
Fill the pot three-quarters full with water and add 1 gallon (1.2 liters) of water for every 1 pound (450 grams) of square spaghetti pasta. Season the water with 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water, turn the heat to high, close the lid, and bring the water to a full boil.
Once the water is boiling vigorously, add the square spaghetti, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook without the lid so that it doesn’t boil over.
It’s advisable to cook the square spaghetti in a tall pot, which the Italians call a pasta pentola, so that the noodles are completely covered by the water from the very moment you add them in.
If this isn’t possible, don’t break the square spaghetti in half. Instead, immerse as much of the noodles as possible in the water and then gently press down with the palm of your hand to submerge the rest. Always do this from a distance so that the boiling water doesn’t scald your hand.
Don’t add butter or olive oil to the cooking water. Contrary to what many people think, it doesn’t prevent the square spaghetti pasta from sticking. As a matter of fact, it does more harm than good—it coats the surface with an oily film and prevents it from absorbing the sauce.
Some 30 seconds before the end of the cooking time, or when you suspect that the square spaghetti is right about cooked, start fishing it out and tasting it. (It’s going to be really hot, so taste-test carefully! Blow on the pasta to cool it down so you don’t burn your tongue.)
When the square spaghetti are cooked, strain them from the cooking water, place them in a large bowl, and mix them with the sauce. Do not rinse your pasta after cooking. If you do, it will wash away the sticky starches on the surface that help the sauce adhere to the dough.
You will notice that some TV chefs and cookbook recipes recommend adding the pasta to the hot pan with some of the cooking water and cooking it with the sauce for a couple of minutes. If this is the case with your recipe, remove the square spaghetti from the water a minute or so earlier so they don’t overcook.
Square spaghetti cook to al dente for 12-13 minutes and to soft for 14-15 minutes. The simplest way to cook square spaghetti—in boiling salted water—is also the tastiest. The salt adds flavor to the pasta as it rehydrates, and, in a few minutes, it is ready to be mixed with the sauce and served on the table.