Learn the Proper Pasta Serving Sizes to Save Money and Water


If you're like me, you probably just dump the whole box of dried pasta into boiling water and deal with leftovers later. Though there are plenty of nifty tools you can buy that make measuring out your pasta serving sizes as easy as pie, sometimes you just don't need another tool in the cramped kitchen drawer. What if I told you that all you needed to roughly measure the right pasta serving size are your measuring cups?

That's right. While those pasta measuring tools are nice, all you need to do is remember (or bookmark) the correct portion sizes of pasta. Before we go over the serving sizes, though, why does it matter how much pasta per person you make? Well, for those looking to lose weight or eat more mindfully, pasta is a source of delicious carbohydrates that need portion control. Also, when you cook less pasta, you use less water which is something we all need to be mindful of in the kitchen.

The purpose of your pasta is also important to remember when determining the right amount of pasta person. For a small portion, like a lunch or soup, choose about 1/2 cup of dry pasta per serving. For a large pasta portion, like a dinner or main course, choose about 1 cup of dry pasta, or 8 ounces of dry pasta. Of course the pasta shapes will determine the serving size, as well. As far as size suggestions, a single serving of pasta is typically 2 ounces, and in shapes that can fit in measuring cups, it's about 1 heaping cup of dry pasta before cooking.

The only foolproof way of measuring pasta is to use a food scale or kitchen scale, but if you don't own one (me either), stick to this easy list for the perfect portion for a family of four. If you're cooking for two or three, you can easily adjust this list for an Italian side dish.


Editor's Note: All uncooked pasta should equal 8 ounces. For those noodles that can fit into measuring cups, we've provided the cup measurement. These numbers are for packaged and dry pasta, which contains about 6 servings. 

  • Angel Hair: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta. 
  • Bow Tie: 4 cups uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Egg Noodle: 4 cups uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Elbow Macaroni: 2 cups uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Fettuccine: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 3-1/4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Linguine: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Medium Shell: 3 cups uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Rigatoni: 3 cups uncooked pasta, 4 cups cooked pasta.
  • Rotini: 3 cups uncooked pasta, 4-1/2 cups cooked pasta.
  • Spaghetti: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 5 cups cooked pasta.
  • Thin Spaghetti: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 4-1/2 cups cooked pasta.
  • Vermicelli: 8 oz. uncooked pasta, 4-1/2 cups cooked pasta.
  • Ziti: 3 cups uncooked pasta, 4-1/2 cups cooked pasta.
  • Penne: 2/3 cup uncooked pasta, 1-1/4 cups cups cooked pasta.

For more information on specific types of pasta, check out Barilla Pasta's handy pasta measuring guide.

For single portion help, just remember that about 1 cup of dry, uncooked pasta in any shape is a good estimate. Here's another helpful tip: 1 cup of cooked pasta is typically the size of your fist.

So go forth and pasta it up! If you need a refresher on the proper way to cook pasta with veggies check out our guide here because there's no such thing as a stupid question. We have tons of great pasta recipe ideas, a few of which you can find here, here, and here.


AxeSickle Stainless Steel Spaghetti Measurer

Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

This post was originally published on April 20, 2018.

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