I sometimes find myself having to cook pasta without a colander. When it is cooked and I want to get rid of the water, I generally just hold the lid over the pan with a slight opening for the water to drain out and then tip it over the sink, but this doesn't get rid of all the water and I tend to lose some pasta as well. I am looking for a better method. Ideally, one that doesn't require additional equipment.

  • You could use some tulle over another container. I don't know if it's called tulle so here's a picture of it: tutunetoandnotions.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/…
    – papakias
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 9:29
  • I normally toss the pan a couple of times to help the leftover water to evaporate.
    – sh1
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 17:35
  • slosh it around and tip it again. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 15:17

6 Answers 6


With some practice, holding the lid over the pan with a slight opening for the water to drain out works well for me. The trick is to make sure the opening for the lid is smaller than the size of one noodle and to pour slowly.

You can also make your own colander from some things laying around the house. In cases where the pasta isn't very hot, a plastic ziplock bag with a few small holes would work great.

If the noodles are too hot for that, you could drill (or saw if you have the tools) small holes into a plastic bowl you have, even a disposable one if you have one. But that can be a good bit of work and takes a bit of planning.

If you have a frying pan cover or something similar around, you could use that as a filter for the noodles.

One of the best ways is to use a dishtowel, making sure you hold it very carefully so that you don't burn your hands, but pouring the noodles with water into the towel so that the water can go through but the noodles are caught in the towel. Note that this only works with unseasoned noodles.

Alternatively you could manually scoop out the noodles with the proper tools to do so, i.e. a spaghetti scooper or a slotted spoon, etc. depending on the type of noodle, moving them to an alternative container or directly onto a plate or bowl.

  • Opening smaller noodles is tricky with spaghetti, drilling holes into a bowl is horrible work (I tried that once, doesn't work well). Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 20:47
  • @AngeloFuchs "Opening smaller noodles" - what does that mean? As for drilling holes, that's only a small part of the entire answer Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 20:57
  • Sorry, that beginning is broken; I meant: Its tricky to make the opening in the lid small enough to still contain spaghetti. Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 21:54
  • 1
    This gave me an idea: maybe an ordinary carrier bag could be a makeshift colander, since they have holes punched in them already?
    – Flounderer
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 6:22
  • 2
    People in India uses a similar technique while draining extra water after cooking rice. It is like putting a lid over the pot and then draining the water slowly by opening very small part (Remember it is rice) and let the water slowly get out. The process needs time to get perfect at but it is used by many people here.
    – Tanmoy
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 17:42

Unbleached cheesecloth over the pot and tip. It's what i do when i go camping…takes little room.

  • What do you do with the slime that's in the cheesecloth? Do you use and discard cheesecloth every time you make pasta? Do you have to wash the cheesecloth every time you make pasta? Where do you put the hot wet slimy cheesecloth after use?
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 16:49
  • @Stan: Slime? If your noodles are slimy, then I think they're overcooked. I imagine that rinsing the cheesecloth and squeezing out the water would be sufficient.
    – user17389
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 3:42
  1. You can add a dish towel to your lid. That way you will not loose the pasta, but the water drains out. But you will need to wash that towel after use.
  2. Depending on the sauce you are going to serve along with the pasta it is possible to make it too dry for itself and then put it into the pot with the pasta. That way you use the small remaining water in the pasta pot to dilute the too-thick-sauce until its tasty.
  3. If you twist the pot a little during the outpour of the water you can prevent the pasta from slipping out, but it takes longer to pour the water that way and if done uncarefully it could result in a gush of boiling hot water on your hands. While its possible its not recomenndable.
  4. Place a toothpick in the opening of the lid, that way the opening is not big enough for most noodles to skip past it.
  • 2
    You can also just spoon (or claw) the pasta into another bowl or pan. Then pouring the water out is as easy as pouring water. This depends on whether you consider a bowl and utensil "additional equipment". I don't, since you can use those to serve with later.
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:34

While I see most answers say to "use a plate", I have always found it easier to use a cutting board. Because the cutting board is flat and straight, it allows for a better seal with the edge of the pot. Simply hold the cutting board flush with the top of the pot, allow for a small gap between the cutting board and the edge of the pot to allow water to escape but not the pasta, and slowly tilt the pot to let water pour out. This is the same idea as using a plate or the lid to the pot, just easier in my opinion.

  • I think the difficulty is finding the optimal gap without losing part of the payload as you experiment not with the object used. The OP chose to use the pot lid but wanted a solution better than losing noodles or having water still remaining. Plate, board, lid, etc.… all of these depend on the optimal gap for the noodle size—using a some hack.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 23:34
  • This is why I like the cutting board. It is very easy to create a small gap because the edge is straight.
    – Justlieb
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 19:04

I have a strainer but I prefer an easier method that doesn't require you to remove the pasta from the pan.

If you have a plate that fits over the pot completely put it on top.

  • Grip pot and plate together on sides where handles are.
  • Pour out water with out pouring on your hands
  • Shake once water has stopped flowing. Set down and repeat.
  • How does the water come out? How do you keep your thumbs from getting burned as freshly boiled water heats up the plate you're holding to keep the pasta inside the pot? How do you keep the pasta from sliding out between the plate and the pot?
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 16:46

You can have my colander. I found a lifehack and don't need mine now.

I use a plate to help drain the water; but, the real hack is


I put a salad plate into the pasta pot. It is slightly smaller in diameter than the sauce pan by about 10mm. Put it face-down over the pasta before you tip the pot to drain it. The small plate will hold the pasta in place as the water flows past the plate on either side. Hold the pot handle with one hand and use the edge of the lid in your other hand to hold the hot plate from falling out as you tip the pot to drain the water from the sauce pan.

Not only is this hack much faster than using a colander, it's easier to clean a plate as it has no nooks, crannies, and holes. (Can you tell that I did this a few minutes ago?) Using this method will allow you to pour the water as fast as you wish without losing a single noodle. After you do it once, you won't even have to watch what you're doing. It's physics. It's automatic. I don't use my colander now for anything more than washing vegetables with a spray attachment.

It's also more efficient than a colander. When you use this method, after you remove the plate the completely drained pasta is left sitting in the sauce pan ready for you to add the sauce, oil, and spices and return directly to the stovetop if you want.

All done perfectly without losing a noodle in one step without a colander. Try it once and you'll never do it any other way.

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