How To Microwave Pasta: The Ultimate Guide

As simple as it is to cook pasta on the stovetop, there may be times when you need something even more convenient.

You might have limited cooking utensils, for example, or you might just be all out of clean pots and pans. Here’s how to microwave pasta so it comes out perfectly, and without it turning into a lumpy mess!

(Just keep in mind that although convenient, this method does take slightly longer than the stove. That’s because the cold water has to be heating up to cooking temperature first)

How To Cook Pasta In The Microwave

First things first, here’s what you’ll need to make a single serving. Adjust for bigger portions:

  • Dry pasta, of whatever variety you’re working with.
  • A microwave-safe container, such as a large bowl.

Microwave Pasta Recipe

Once you’ve got everything together, just follow these simple instructions:

  • Add around 1 cup of pasta to the microwave-safe container.
  • Cover the pasta with water, and make sure there’s at least 2 inches of water on top. The pasta will expand during cooking, so it needs plenty of water to work with.
  • Put the bowl in the microwave, and set the appliance to high power.
  • Cook the pasta for around 3-4 minutes longer than the packet instructions suggest. This allows extra time for the water to heat up, before the pasta is actually cooked through.
  • Check in on things every 2 minutes or so. Depending on the size of the bowl the water may boil over, so it’s best to be on hand here.
  • Test the pasta after the full amount of time and see if it’s done enough for you. If not, keep cooking – and testing – in 30 second increments.

Once it’s cooked, just stir in your favorite sauce and serve as normal!

So, can you cook pasta in a microwave? 100% yes! 

The results you get will depend on how much attention you give to the pasta while it’s cooking. Don’t under – or over – cook it, and you’ll get results that are very close to the traditional stovetop method.

How Long To Microwave Pasta

As a general rule, you should microwave your pasta for the time recommended on the packet, plus an extra 3-4 minutes.

This gives the water plenty of time to heat up, while still cooking the pasta for the correct amount of time.

Is It Safe To Cook Pasta In The Microwave?

It’s perfectly safe to cook pasta in the microwave! The only thing you need to watch out for is the water boiling over the side of the bowl.

That has the potential to spill out of the appliance if you don’t keep a careful eye on things. You might think about placing a plate underneath the bowl, so it captures any spillover before you can hit the stop button!

Can You Soften Pasta In The Microwave?

You can soften pasta in the microwave by cooking it for longer. I recommend using 30 second bursts to find the sweet spot for whatever meal you’re working on.

If you’ve made some pasta on the stovetop and think it needs a little more cooking, you can transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl (with the existing hot water) and give it a quick burst.

Is A Microwave The Fastest Way To Cook Pasta?

Unless you’re using pre-heated water, it’s actually slower to use a microwave to cook pasta. That’s because the water needs to heat up before it can start cooking the pasta properly.

Essentially you’re following the same packet instructions, plus a few extra minutes to get the water up to the correct temperature.

As convenient as microwaves are for reheating so many foods quickly, there’s nothing special about them that speeds up the cooking of dry pasta.

Can You Microwave Pasta Sauce?

Yes, you can microwave pasta sauce! Just make sure you use a microwave-safe bowl, and cook the sauce in no more than 30 second intervals. 

Give it a good stir in-between each blast of power too.

How To Microwave Pasta Without Drying It Out

To microwave pasta without drying it out, it’s essential to provide plenty of extra water. The pasta will expand as it cooks, absorbing more of the water. If it doesn’t have enough water to absorb for the duration of the cooking time, you’ll end up with pasta that gets drier and drier.

When you’ve added your pasta to the microwave-safe bowl, it’s really important to make sure it’s covered with around two inches of extra water. That might limit how much pasta you can microwave at any one time, but it’s better to do it right than end up with dry pasta.

This extra water will ensure the pasta has all that it needs. At the end of the day, you can always drain off excess water! You can’t rescue dry pasta so easily though, so it’s better to use too much.

How To Microwave Pasta For Reheating

Pasta’s one of those foods that’s perfect for making in big batches, and then reheating over subsequent days.

In this section I’ll answer the most important questions about how to best reheat pasta in your microwave.

How Long To Reheat Pasta In The Microwave

We all know how easy it is to microwave pasta until it’s a dry, stodgy heap.

How long should you reheat pasta in the microwave so it’s as good as the day you made it though?

This is a common situation you’ll find yourself in when you want to take some of last night’s dinner to work, so you have an easy lunch to tuck into.

The trick is to first of all add a few splashes of water to the pasta, then microwave it in 1 minute bursts.

Between each burst, stir the pasta thoroughly, and consider adding a few more drops of water if the dish is in danger of drying out.

There’s no hard and fast answer to this question. It really does depend on the serving size and the other ingredients used in the dish.

How To Reheat Pasta With Sauce In Microwave

To reheat pasta with sauce in the microwave, follow the same instructions as I’ve given in the last answer.

Because you’ve already got some liquid content in there, you don’t need to use as much water. You should still add a few drops at the start though, and mix it all in.

Again, the trick here is to cook in 1 minute bursts, stir, check if it’s drying out, and then add a little extra water if needed.

How To Reheat Spaghetti Bolognese In The Microwave

Being able to reheat spaghetti bolognese in the microwave is a great way of getting two dinners out of one cooking effort!

1) Grab a bowl, and add your spaghetti bolognese until it’s two-thirds full.
2) Add a splash of water ,as the spaghetti will have dried out somewhat in the refrigerator.
3) Place a plate on top, or wrap some microwave-safe plastic wrap over the top of the bowl.
4) Cook on high power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds.
5) Once the food is piping hot all the way through, it’s ready to eat!

Does Reheating Pasta Reduce Carbs?

Several years ago, the BBC conducted an experiment to test the idea that reheating pasta reduces carbs. Specifically, the carbohydrate known as starch.

The first discovery the team made was that allowing pasta to cool down before eating it creates more “resistant starch”. This means your body treats the pasta more like fiber than carbohydrates. A good result.

What about reheating that cooled-down pasta though?

As a leading diabetes charity reported later, when cooled pasta is reheated it creates even more of this resistant starch.

No one really understands why this happens. Still, the evidence suggests that reheated pasta doesn’t so much reduce carbs, as convert them into something our body finds much easier to process.

Microwaving Different Types Of Pasta

In this next section I’m going to explain how to cook different types of pasta in your microwave.

Can Spaghetti Be Cooked In The Microwave?

You can cook spaghetti in the microwave but you’ll find it difficult to do so without breaking the spaghetti in half.

There’s only so much room to work with here, and you don’t have the luxury of slowly lowering the long strands vertically into a saucepan.

It is possible to do though, and I’ll explain how in the next section.

How To Cook Spaghetti In The Microwave

To cook spaghetti in the microwave, just follow these instructions:

1) Grab the largest microwave-safe bowl that will fit in your microwave.
2) Break the dry spaghetti strands in half and place them in the bowl.
3) Pour water into the bowl until the spaghetti is completely covered, with an extra inch or so on top.
4) Microwave it on high power for around 3 minutes longer than the packet instructions suggest (it takes extra time for the water to heat up, after all).
5) Once you’ve finished, simply drain the spaghetti and serve with your preferred sauce!

How Long Should You Microwave Spaghetti For?

The length of time you microwave your spaghetti for is entirely dependent on the brand. 

Following on from the instructions above, you should microwave your spaghetti for 2-3 minutes longer than the packet instructions say.

That assumes you’re using cold water, as this extra time is needed to heat the water up.

How To Make Kraft Mac And Cheese In The Microwave

To make Kraft Mac & Cheese in the microwave, just following these very simple instructions:

1) Remove the packet of cheese sauce from the box and put it to one side.
2) Add 1 cup of water to a 2 quart microwave-safe bowl.
3) Heat the water for 1 minute.
4) Add the pasta from the box to the water.
5) Heat the pasta on high power for 5-7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes to prevent it all from sticking together.
6) When you stir, pay attention to the water that’s remaining. Once it’s all been absorbed into the pasta you should stop cooking it.
7) Add the cheese sauce to the pasta, along with ¼ cup of milk.
8) Stir until everything is blended nicely, and then serve!

How To Make Velveeta Mac And Cheese In The Microwave 

You can make Velveeta mac and cheese in the microwave if it’s the type that comes in a cup. Here are the simple instructions you need to follow:

1) Pour water into the cup until it reaches the line marked on the inside of the packaging.
2) Microwave the cup on high power for 3.5 minutes.
3) Stir in the cheese sauce mix that comes with the cup.
4) Tuck in!

Can You Microwave Nissin Cup Noodles?

You can microwave Nissin cup noodles, but if they’re sold in styrofoam cups you cannot cook them in the container they’re packaged in.

I’ve explained why you can’t microwave styrofoam elsewhere on Viva Flavor, but here’s the simple explanation.

Styrofoam is a form of plastic which contains chemicals that can leak into your food at high temperatures.

The material is fine for cold and room temperature storage, but it can’t be subjected to high heat.

If your Nissin cup noodles are in a styrofoam container, transfer them to a microwave-safe container with water, and cook them for the same time.

The good news is that more recent versions of cup noodles use a paper – rather than styrofoam – cup. These can be microwaved, but just check the packaging carefully first.

Why Are You Not Supposed To Microwave Cup Noodles?

The same problem occurs with other brands too. Again, the reason why you’re not supposed to microwave cup noodles is because of that packaging.

Whatever brand you’re buying, you should always follow the instructions on the cup. Alternatively, transfer the noodles to a microwave-safe container before cooking them.

Microwaving Pasta In Different Containers

Even if all you have is a microwave and a few common pieces of kitchenware, it’s still perfectly possible to whip up a batch of pasta!

Here’s how to get the job done with just the basics.

How To Microwave Pasta In A Bowl

To microwave pasta in a bowl you need quite a deep bowl, as the water will have a tendency to rise up the sides as it’s heated.

Microwave Pasta Bowl Recipe

1) Add pasta to the bowl until it’s no more than two-thirds full (half to be safe).
2) Pour in just enough water (cold or warm) to cover the pasta entirely.
3) Set the microwave to high power.
4) Cook for two minutes longer than the packet instructions state.
5) Check the texture of the pasta, and cook in further 30 second bursts to get the right consistency.

How To Microwave Pasta In A Mug

It’s pretty easy to microwave pasta in a mug, but it’s fair to say that some pastas work better than others.

Small pieces like macaroni or pastina? No problem. Spaghetti, for obvious reasons, is not such a great choice!
Assuming you’re working with smaller pieces though, here’s how to microwave pasta in a mug:

Microwave Pasta Mug Recipe

1) Fill a microwave-safe mug halfway with pasta.
2) Fill to the top with water.
3) Microwave on a high heat for 2 minutes.
4) Stir, then heat for another 30 seconds.
5) Continue cooking in 30 second bursts if it needs more time.

How To Make Mac & Cheese In A Mug

If you’re really short of kitchenware, there is a simple way to make an excellent mac & cheese in a mug.

Here’s what you’ll need, and how to make it:

Mac & Cheese Mug Ingredients

1) Half a cup of macaroni
2) Half a cup of water
3) 3 tablespoons of milk
4) Salt & pepper to taste
5) Quarter cup of grated cheese* 

(*Your choice, but cheddar’s great and it’s a kitchen staple)

Mac & Cheese Mug Recipe

1) Combine the macaroni with the water and seasoning in a microwave-safe mug.
2) Cook in the microwave on a high heat for 2 minutes.
3) Stir the contents.
4) Add your grated cheese and milk, then stir again.
5) Return to the microwave for another 30 seconds of cooking.
6) Check the temperature, and microwave for a further 30 seconds if required.

Microwaving Frozen Pasta

When it comes to microwaving frozen pasta, there are a few things to be aware of. Ignore them and you’ll end up with a very unpleasant meal!

How To Defrost & Cook Frozen Pasta

In an ideal world you’ll leave your frozen pasta in the refrigerator for 24 hours before heating it up in the microwave.

We can’t always plan that far ahead though, so here’s how to defrost frozen pasta in the microwave – straight from the deep freeze.

1) Place the portion of frozen pasta into a microwave-safe container.
2) Choose the microwave’s defrost setting, or manually set the power to half strength.
3) Place a piece of moistened paper towel over the pasta.
4) Cook for 5 minutes, stopping to stir the contents every couple of minutes.

There are two important things to remember here, which are relevant to reheating all kinds of foods:

1) If you’re going to be doing a lot of reheating in your microwave, you should definitely consider buying a cooking thermometer. If the internal temperature of the food is 165F / 74C, you’ll have peace of mind that the food is safe to eat.

2) If you have any leftovers, throw them in the trash or your compost. You should never reheat food that’s already been reheated once before, as this increases the risk of bacteria developing.

How To Defrost & Cook Frozen Spaghetti

To defrost frozen spaghetti, you just need to follow the same instructions I’ve outlined above.

Don’t leave the spaghetti piled up on the plate though! It’s better to make sure it’s spread as evenly as possible over the entire plate, so the food is heated evenly.

That’ll be hard to do straight from the freezer. Once it’s had a couple of minutes in the microwave though, give it a good stir. I’ll even chop it up a bit once a knife can go through easily enough.

How To Defrost Frozen Spaghetti Sauce

To defrost spaghetti sauce, you’ll once again ideally leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Alternatively you can submerge the – sealed – container of sauce in a bowl filled with room-temperature water. After around 20 minutes or so it should be ready for reheating.

The microwave is a bit of a last resort when it comes to defrosting frozen spaghetti sauce. The process removes a lot of the flavor, but it can be used in a pinch!

1) Set the microwave’s power to a low-medium heat.
2) Cook it in 2 minute bursts, stirring every 2 minutes.

The idea is not to cook the sauce straight from frozen, but instead delicately reheat it. This is a job that needs to be done at a low power, with lots of stirring.

About Microwave Pasta Makers

If you plan on making a lot of pasta in your microwave, you might consider buying a dedicated microwave pasta maker.

This next section explains how they work, and what you need to know about them.

What Is A Microwave Pasta Maker?

Microwave pasta makers are lidded containers that are designed to make everything as simple and mess-free as possible.

They’re available in a wide variety of sizes to suit different microwaves and appetites.

They typically feature handles for safe removal of the cooked pasta, and a lid that doubles as a strainer.

The best pasta makers also feature clear markings etched into the plastic. These help you pick the right amount of water for the right amount of pasta.

Are Microwave Pasta Cookers Any Good?

Microwave pasta cookers are a good addition to your kitchen if you make a lot of pasta, but don’t have access to a stove.

They’re also a useful – and affordable – piece of kit to buy along with a college dorm microwave, where access to cooking facilities is limited.

Pasta cookers are also popular with people who have limited mobility, and want to minimize the risk of handling hot water on the stovetop.

What’s The Best Microwave Pasta Cooker?

The best microwave pasta cooker at the time of writing this article is the standard Fasta Pasta.

Microwave Pasta Cooker - The Original Fasta...
  • Perfect al dente pasta everytime
  • Saves time, energy and water
  • No boil over

Fasta Pasta’s the biggest name in the world of microwave pasta cookers, and this is their flagship product.

(Heads up! If you click on a product link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend a product I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen, and this helps keep the site running. Thank you.)

Where To Buy A Microwave Pasta Cooker

You can buy a microwave pasta cooker from most of the big name stores. For convenience’ sake though, you can also find a selection of the biggest brands on Amazon.

Microwave Pasta Cooker Instructions

Here are the instructions for using the Fasta Pasta microwave pasta cooker:

1) Place your pasta in the pasta cooker.

2) Add water according to the portion size (printed on the side of the cooker).

3) Microwave for the right amount of time, based on the guidance that came with your pasta cooker.

4) Add the lid to the pasta cooker.

5) Turn it upside down over the sink, so the water escapes through the strainer holes.

6) Serve!

All pasta cookers work in much the same way, so you should find those instructions very easy to translate to a different brand.

Wrapping Up

That should be everything you’ll ever need to know about microwaving pasta – whew!

Remember, it’s better to cook smaller portions using the right amount of water. Otherwise you run the risk of your pasta drying out, which no-one wants.

Keep an eye on it too, and be ready to hit that stop button if the water looks ready to boil over!