How to Measure Pasta

When it comes to portion control, there are few foods that are more confusing than pasta.  Some questions I get frequently are: What is a serving?  Is a serving based on dry or cooked pasta?  How do I know how I measure uncooked pasta, so I get the appropriate amount of cooked pasta?  Today, I will try to answer these questions.

So, what is a serving of pasta? According to the Food Guide Pyramid and the Diabetic Exchange System, a serving of pasta is ½ cup of cooked pasta (this is equivalent to about 2 ounces of cooked pasta).  This would provide approximately 80-100 calories and 15-20 grams of carbohydrate.

How do I measure pasta? Pasta can be measured before or after cooking.  A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that pasta doubles in size and weight when it is cooked.  Here are some guidelines to follow when measuring pasta.

  • Cooked pasta can be measured by using a measuring cup or a food scale.
    • 1 serving = ½ cup or 2 ounces of cooked pasta

If you would prefer to measure the pasta before you cook so you are not making too much food, the following tips can be helpful:

  • The most accurate way to measure uncooked past is to use a food scale.
    • 1 ounce uncooked pasta = 1 serving
  • If you are making strand pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, etc.), they do make tools to measure pasta.  Typically on a pasta measure, there are several holes that are different diameters.  This allows cooks to know that they are making 1-4 servings by filling the holes.  Pasta measures are inexpensive and can be a great way to achieve portion control when making strand pasta!   Take a look at my store to see what a pasta measure looks like.
  • Measuring out pasta shapes can be a bit trickier for those who are not using a pasta scale.  Shapes vary in size, so they do differ slightly, but a good rule of thumb is:
    • Approximately ¼ cup of dry pasta shapes = 1 serving for elbow macaroni, shells, rotini, cavatelli, wheels, penne or ziti.

In summary, a good generalization to measure pasta measures is as follows:

1 Serving cooked pasta = 2 ounces or ½ cup

1 Serving uncooked pasta = 1 ounce or ¼ cup

Yes, I know that your thinking…a half-cup of pasta might not be enough to satisfy a hearty appetite.  Remember, the average person needs 6-11 servings from the Grain food group per day.  So, feel free to have more than a half-cup of pasta at a meal, just be sure to count it as more than one serving.  Also, try adding extra vegetables to the sauce, have a side salad or a small chicken breast along with the pasta.  This will help you to fill up while keeping your pasta portions in check.