Many different kinds of soup have pasta as one of the main ingredients.
From chicken noodle soup to Tuscan tortellini soup, there are plenty of soup recipes that recommend adding pasta or noodles.
The problem is, it seems nobody can agree on the following question: ‘does pasta need to be cooked before going in soup?’
We’re going to be examining this question from both sides of the argument today, explaining the benefits and drawbacks of boiling uncooked pasta in broth, as well as why you might want to cook noodles separately.
Can You Cook Noodles In Soup?
Cooking noodles in the soup itself seems like the obvious choice to a lot of people.
After all, if you boil your pasta separately instead of adding raw pasta directly to the soup, you have to use another pan, and an extra step is added to the cooking process.
Cooking Times Can Line Up
Pasta also has a relatively short cooking time of around 10 minutes. This means that it should have plenty of time to cook in the same pot as the soup.
A lot of soups do take more than 10 minutes to prepare, but if you add the pasta about 10 to 15 minutes from the end of the cooking time, you shouldn’t have any issues.
With that being said, different kinds of pasta have slightly different cooking times, and smaller pasta shapes may take less time to cook than larger ones, so it’s important to check this information before you start cooking.
It’s also true that cooking dry noodles or dry pasta in chicken broth, for example, will help the uncooked pasta to take on some of the flavor.
While this might not be what you’re going for, if you want the pasta in your soup to be fully infused with the flavors of the other ingredients, cooking pasta in soup is a good idea.
Reasons To Cook Pasta Separately
While all of the above points are valid reasons to cook pasta in soup, there are also times when you might want to consider cooking noodles separately and adding them to the soup later.
Maintaining Pasta Flavor
One reason is if you don’t want your pasta to absorb the flavor of the broth and other ingredients.
If you want to be able to distinguish the taste of the pasta from the broth readily, it’s best for the pasta to be boiled separately.
Preventing Starchy Soup And Mushy Pasta
Another reason is that when you cook pasta in soup, especially if you overcook the pasta in the broth, you can end up making your soup cloudy.
This can be avoided by adding the pasta into the soup at the right time (shortly before it’s ready), but any misjudgment on timing can result in starchy soup and overly soft pasta.
The Issue Of Undercooked Pasta
When you boil pasta in its own pasta water, it doesn’t matter so much if the pasta isn’t ready at the same time as the soup.
You can simply put a lid on your broth to keep it warm and continue to cook the pasta until it’s done.
However, when you add uncooked pasta to the broth, it’s important to get the timing exactly right.
Overcooking the pasta in the soup is its own issue, but you can also end up in a situation where your pasta is still al dente when your soup is ready.
You then have to choose between continuing to boil the soup (potentially impacting its flavor and consistency) or eating the soup with uncooked noodles.
Preserving Cooked Pasta Leftovers
Additionally, if you think you’re going to have leftovers. You can easily store broth in the fridge or freezer, but pasta will not keep well in the broth.
You’ll probably end up with mushy pasta, which is not appetizing.
Do You Have To Cook Pasta Before Adding It To Soup?
Technically, no, you do not have to cook pasta before adding it to soup. In some cases, cooking pasta in the soup itself may be the better choice.
However, there are definitely some situations where the pasta should be cooked in a separate pot.
When To Cook Noodles In Soup
It’s perfectly acceptable to cook your pasta in the soup itself, as long as you get the timings correct.
Adding the pasta to the liquid shortly before the soup is ready should result in a delicious soup that isn’t cloudy, and pasta that has absorbed the taste of the soup.
If that’s what you’re going for, great! Just remember that you won’t be able to store the leftover noodles in the soup, and if you want to store the soup itself for later, you’ll need to take the noodles out first.
When To Cook The Pasta Separately
If you’re worried about getting the timing wrong, it’s best to err on the side of caution and cook the pasta by itself in boiling water.
Mistiming the addition of the pasta to the soup will result in one of five things: cloudy soup, mushy noodles, al dente noodles, under-boiled soup, or over-boiled soup. None of these options are ideal.
You should also cook your pasta in a different pot if you’re likely to have leftovers, since you can’t refrigerate or freeze noodles in broth with good results.
So, do you really have to cook your pasta before adding it to your soup? That depends.
If you feel confident in your ability to add the pasta to the soup at the last moment so that it finishes cooking at the same time as the soup, it’s fine to cook the noodles in the broth.
However, if you’re not confident with timing, or you think you’ll have extra noodles and soup leftover, use a separate pot.
This prevents overcooking and undercooking and means you can avoid having a lot of starch in your soup. It also makes it easier to refrigerate leftovers without the pasta turning mushy.