Pasta is a delicious and versatile dish that can be cooked in hundreds of different ways. You can spice it up by using different types of pasta, varying the pasta sauce, or adding a different condiment, such as parmesan cheese, olive oil, or pesto.
The hardest part is knowing how much pasta to cook. We often eyeball it and end up eating twice the recommended number of servings we’re supposed to. In an ideal world, we’d always cook the perfect amount of pasta for our dish with no waste. In practice, that doesn’t always work out.
One way to solve this is to measure how much pasta you’re cooking. This is easy to do for those who have a measuring scale at home. Weigh out your portion size before cooking. But, for many people, this isn’t an option. Luckily, there’s a workaround – learn how to measure pasta without scales.
You can utilize five main techniques to do so, all of which are explained in this article. Let’s dive in.
The best way to measure pasta without a food scale is to use either a measuring cup, a quarter, or your hands. Given the circumstances, they will provide you with the most accurate measurements.
But the exact method you choose will vary depending on the size of the pasta, i.e., is it short pasta like macaroni or long pasta like spaghetti? Of course, you’ll also have to factor in how much pasta you actually eat, but regardless of what pasta dish you’re cooking, one of the following five methods will work for you.
Five ways to measure pasta without scales
One cup, one serving
Most of us have measuring cups at home that we typically use to measure water, flour, etc. Not only do they help with measuring water and liquids, but they also help with measuring pasta servings.
One cup roughly measures one serving of cooked pasta. This particularly applies to small pasta such as macaroni, rigatoni farfalle, campanelle, etc.
It should be noted that when you’re cooking pasta, it will approximately double in size from when it’s dry to when it’s cooked. This means that if you want one cup of cooked pasta, you’ll want to measure half a cup of dry pasta before cooking.
This may not work for slightly larger and thicker pasta, such as fusilli and penne, since they take up more space. For those pasta recipes, you should measure out 3/4 of a cup of dried pasta to make 1.5 cups of cooked pasta, equating to the same volume.
Quarter sized coin
This is an age-old trick used to measure spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, and other long, noodle-like pasta. Basically, grab a handful of the dry pasta in your hand. To measure one portion size, the bunched-up pasta should roughly be the size of a quarter in diameter. This is a particularly easy method to measure and cook pasta since most people either have a quarter nearby or can visualize its size.
Unfortunately, this technique doesn’t quite work when measuring egg noodles. This is because egg noodles don’t expand as much as when you cook spaghetti, linguine, penne, etc. As such, dry egg noodles and cooked noodles are about the same size, so you may want to measure two quarter-size portions per person.
Hand size portions
You’ve probably heard of the hand-size technique for measuring portion sizes. Whether you’re cooking meats, vegetables, or carbs such as pasta, you can roughly measure one portion worth using your hands.
For pasta, it’s recommended that you cook one fist size for one portion. This refers to one fist size of dry pasta, which, when cooked, will double in size to satisfy most appetites.
The only downside with this method is that not everyone’s hand size is the same. Some people have larger hands, whereas others have smaller hands, so this technique may not provide an adequate amount of pasta for everyone.
However, this can be solved by trial and error. Test one fist-size portion out and see if it’s enough. If it’s too much, then you know to add a little less than one fist next time.
Split into equal portions
This is the most inconvenient method to measure pasta, but it will get the job done. Each packaging of pasta has a recommended number of servings. For example, a 500g bag of fusilli pasta may be recommended for five servings. If you’re short of time and have no other tools, empty the bag and eyeball it into five portions.
This will by no means be super accurate. However, it will roughly equate to five 100g portions. To make it easier for you, you can separate these portions into separate zip lock bags so that the next time you cook, the portions are already divided into individual servings.
Like the quarter-sized coin, a water bottle opening can measure long and thin pasta. For instance, if your recipe requires cooked spaghetti noodles, fit as many dry spaghetti noodles into the bottle opening as possible. That should be equal to one serving.
If you don’t have a water bottle on hand, a nifty trick you can do is create a circle with your index finger and thumb. Close it so it’s roughly the size of a water bottle opening which will serve the same purpose. Simply grab a handful of long noodles and see how many you can fit through it. That should be enough for one portion.
Bonus: Pasta spoons
Following on from the previous point, you can also use a pasta spoon to measure out one portion. If you’re a pasta aficionado, you likely have a pasta spoon at home. Notice how there’s a hole in the middle? You probably thought it was there to drain out water, right?
Well, you’re not wrong. But it also serves another purpose, to measure out one portion of any long pasta. It serves the same purpose as a water bottle opening. Fit as much long pasta as you can through it, and that should be enough for one person.
Keep in mind that some pasta spoons have very small holes. Of course, those are just there to drain water. But if there’s a hole that’s approximately the size of a quarter or water bottle opening, it should be enough for one serving.
Measuring out a serving size can be tricky. It depends on the pasta you’re cooking, the person that’s eating it, and how hungry they are. However, as a general rule of thumb, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends one serving of dry pasta to equal 2 ounces (oz).
Using a cooking conversion chart, we can calculate that 2 ounces equate to around 60 grams or 1 cup of dry pasta. This heuristic applies to almost any pasta, except egg noodles, as they don’t expand as much when cooked.
|Type of Pasta||Amount of dry pasta per person (imperial)||Amount of dry pasta per person (metric)|
|Angel Hair||2 oz||60g|
|Bow Tie||2 oz||60g|
|Egg Noodle||4 oz||120g|
|Elbow Macaroni||2 oz||60g|
|Medium Shell||2 oz||60g|
|Thin Spaghetti||2 oz||60g|
Measuring pasta without a scale isn’t always accurate, but it can be done. The main method you can use is a measuring cup, which roughly equates to 2 oz of pasta. This is equivalent to one serving.
If you don’t have a measuring cup, you can either measure one fist size of pasta which should approximately equal one serving. Or, if you have long pasta such as spaghetti, you can cook a quarter-sized coin worth of pasta.
How do you measure dry pasta?
Typically with a measuring scale. If you don’t have a scale – depending on the pasta you’re cooking – you can use a cup, your hand, or a quarter-sized coin.
How can I measure 2 ounces of pasta without a scale?
2 ounces of pasta roughly equates to one cup. If you don’t have a cup available, you can measure out one fist size. This should equate to one serving (2 oz).
How can I measure an ounce of pasta without a scale?
Measure out half a cup. If you don’t have a cup available, you can measure out half a fist size of pasta, equating to one serving (1 oz).