Al dente

« Back to Cooking Terms Index

al dente meaning | how to cook pasta al dente

Al dente Meaning

Al dente Meaning in cooking is Pasta or other foods cooked this way means that it has been cooked tender but slightly firm, but not hard. Italian for ‘to the tooth’.

The expression is most commonly used to describe pasta that has been served at this degree of firmness and is generally considered to be the most widely preferred.

In contemporary Italian cooking, the term identifies the ideal consistency for pasta and involves a brief cooking time and is the culinary term for slightly undercooked pasta.
Undercooking pasta is used in the first round of cooking when a pasta dish is going to be cooked twice.

According to the American Diabetes Association, pasta that is cooked al dente has a lower glycemic index than pasta that is cooked soft.
When cooking commercial pasta, the al dente phase occurs right after the white of the pasta center disappears.

It can be used to describe any food for which the bite sensation is particular, such as rice and tender-crisp vegetables.
None of us like foods that are too mushy.

The expression should be considered laudatory, and in no way refers to foods being underdone or too hard.

Al dente Pasta

How long do you cook al dente pasta?

Check the pasta package for pasta cooking time.

If no time is given, follow these rules-of-thumb, but be careful to check the pasta often for doneness as it cooks:

  • Fresh pasta –
    Especially egg pasta (fettucine, tagliatelle, lasagna):
    Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Thin –
    Dried durum wheat (eggless) pasta (spaghettini, shells, rotini):
    Cook for 6 to 9 minutes.
  • Dried spaghetti –
    Is generally 8 to 9 minutes, depending on the brand and thickness.
  • Thick dried –
    durum wheat (eggless) pasta (penne, ziti, tortigioni, trofie):
    12 to 15 minutes.
How To Al dente Pasta

How To Al dente Pasta

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

Al dente (Italian for “to the tooth”) is where pasta tastes and feels the best. It’s chewy and firm, holding its whole shape in whatever sauce you put it in.


  • 4 cups/1 litre of water
  • 100 grams of pasta


  • 2 Litre Saucepan


  1. Fill a pot with 4 cups/1 litre of water per 100 grams serving of pasta, cover it, and set it to Boil over high heat.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, remove the cover and add 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt (a little less if it's fine-grained) per litre of water.
    In terms of saltiness, it should resemble sea water.

    This will season your pasta — and it's the only chance in your cooking process to do so.
  3. When the water comes back to a rolling boil, add the pasta and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon to separate the pieces.
  4. Stir the pasta occasionally as it cooks, to keep the pieces from sticking to each other or to the pot.
  5. A minute before the estimated pasta cooking time is up, remove a piece of the pasta to check for doneness.
    You want an al dente, or chewy "to the tooth" texture -- not soft, limp pasta.
    Bite the pasta to check.
  6. Test again every 30 seconds or so, and as soon as the broken piece is a uniform, translucent yellow, drain the pasta.
  7. Toss the pasta in your sauce and serve.


  • Some boxes of pasta have directions for al dente. Because the directions aren't always perfect, you will have to taste the pasta as it is being cooked to know when it is al dente.

Pasta Recipes

See all Pasta Recipes here

« Back to Cooking Terms Index