Cook time for pasta—assume it should be undercooked?

I’m curious about the cook time stated for the pasta. It’s hard to know if six minutes is intended to fully cook, or, as I suspect, to leave it undercooked since it will cook additionally in the oven. I’d love a rule of thumb (“Cook for 2 minutes less than directed.”) since I’m likely to end up using a different shape pasta.

Susan Robinson
Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe question for: Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese


702551 September 27, 2021
The pasta is not fully boiled.

The recipe author covers this in the headnote:

"Back in the macaroni and cheese lab, I combined these three ideas by par-cooking the pasta..."

Two minutes short of the recommendation on the pasta package is a reasonable starting point.

Personally I prefer mac and cheese with fully-cooked (tender) pasta rather than something that is al dente especially when there are crusted on top.

But ultimate you should do what will please you and your dinner table guests. Use your best judgment.

Good luck.
Susan R. September 27, 2021
Thanks for your fast reply. That’s a pretty essential cooking point, and imo the recipe should be updated to include it, for those of us who just skip to the recipe. Honestly, I love food and cooking, but sometimes I just don’t have the patience to read through all the talk that seems to precede every recipe these days.
702551 September 27, 2021
Different people have different writing styles.

The simplification of the recipe steps and inclusion of a lengthy headnote is the style of this particular writer who happens to be the co-founder of Food52. She's an experienced cook and writer, perhaps she expects her audience to know that six minutes is undercooked.

I don't really publish my own recipes. They are full of incomplete sentences, more like short mnemonics or reminders rather than full instructions. But the only reader I need to satisfy is myself; I only add enough words to make sense to myself. I do include some process photography when useful.

If you don't like a particular person's writing style, find someone else to read. Not every recipe author will write to your experience level. There are writers who explain all of the basics, there are writers who focus on professionals who know what a brunoise or what deglaze means.

I will note that in recent years Food52 has favored a style that emphasizes concise instructions, the omission of what NOT to do, the omission of most of the reasoning why things are done (or NOT done) and any process photography (pictures of individual steps).

There are other food websites that provide this information and everyone is free to choose what they read on the Internet (or dead trees books for that matter).

No one can please everyone all the time.
Susan R. September 27, 2021
Thanks for the snark. I am an experienced cook, but there’s no way to know that 6 minutes is/is not enough time for an unspecified brand of pasta. Thanks for the suggestion to look elsewhere also—I’ll be sure to follow it.
702551 September 27, 2021
I understand your frustration with this style of recipe writing.

It was impossible for me to guess what your cooking experience level is. There are plenty of readers here with limited experience and a handful with decades of experience (it has been skewing more to the former than the latter in recent years).

But if she had written "cook pasta until is it approximately 75% done" there would be other readers who would complain about the lack of guidance on how many minutes to cook the pasta. Some people slavishly watch the clock.

And again best of luck.
Amanda H. September 27, 2021
Hi Susan, thanks for your question -- I'll add your suggested fix to the recipe instructions!
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