The Pasta Express is an insulated plastic tube that you fill with boiling water to cook pasta and other foods like shrimp, hot dogs and vegetables. A strainer under the top lid lets you drain the liquid after the food is cooked, so you can serve it right from the Pasta Express. It's advertised as saving both cooking and cleanup time (since all the parts are dishwasher-safe). Instead of bringing a big pot of water to boil to cook spaghetti, you boil just enough to cover the pasta in the tube. The 8-cup Pasta Express holds up to a pound of pasta, and it's often sold with a smaller 5.5-cup tube for smaller servings.
Tests show that the Pasta Express cooks shrimp and asparagus well. However, reviews are oddly mixed when it comes to pasta; some testers say it works fine, while others say spaghetti gets glued together and cooks unevenly, with decidedly yucky results. For example, a tester at KDKA (Pittsburgh) found the spaghetti gummy and undercooked at the recommended seven minutes. However, leaving it in another four minutes did get it done. One participant at The Cutting Board forum reports that she gets good results with pasta only if she follows the instructions exactly.
Aside from the mixed reviews for cooking, the Pasta Express has a few other drawbacks. One reviewer at Epinions.com notes that it uses polycarbonate (No. 7) plastic, a type that's not usually recyclable and may contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to cancer and other health problems, according to the Environmental Working Group. Also, the lids can be hard to secure, posing some risk of burns from the boiling water.
We found the best comparison review of the Pasta Express at KOMO (Seattle), where the tester times it against cooking spaghetti in a pot of boiling water. Testers at KOMO and at KLTV (Dallas) also try to cook items other than pasta. Tests at KDKA (Pittsburgh) provide a clue about getting past the gummy undercooked stage. Reviews at KBTX (Bryan/College Station, Tex.) and at KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) are worth noting because the tests are performed by professional Italian chefs. We also found useful owner-written reviews at Epinions.com, Amazon.com and The Cutting Board forum.
1. KOMO (Seattle)
Reporter Connie Thompson compares cooking a pound of spaghetti in the Pasta Express with cooking it in a pot of boiling water to test claims that the Pasta Express saves time. It does save a few minutes, she says, cooking from start to finish in 15 minutes. Thompson also tries cooking hot dogs and frozen vegetables in the Pasta Express, and is sold on it -- partly because she finds cleanup easy.
Review: Does It Work? Pasta Express, Connie Thompson, Aug. 31, 2006
2. KLTV (Dallas)
The Pasta Express gets a thumbs-down after reporter Joe Terrell finds that it takes 20 minutes and a second pouring of boiling water to finish cooking spaghetti. Attempts to cook asparagus and carrots fail; the only success is with shrimp. Customer service also proved poor, since delivery took a month despite paying for express shipping.
Review: Pasta Express: "Does It Work?", Joe Terrell, Aug. 26, 2007
3. KDKA (Pittsburgh)
This brief review reports that spaghetti cooked in the Pasta Express at the recommended seven minutes was gummy and undercooked. Leaving the pasta in for another four minutes did get it cooked, but reporter Daniela Pampena says the pasta is "not that great." However, asparagus cooked well in it.
Review: Pasta Express -- Does It Really Do That?, Daniela Pampena, May 2006
4. KBTX (Bryan/College Station, Tex.)
Reporter Meredith Stancik asks an Italian chef to test the Pasta Express. After seven minutes, the spaghetti is glued together and gummy, so the owner gives the Pasta Express the lowest possible rating.
Review: Does It Work: Pasta Express, Meredith Stancik, Nov. 6, 2007
5. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)
Tests by a professional pasta chef find that the Pasta Express cooks spaghetti to a perfect "al dente" texture in eight minutes, and cooks shrimp well, too. The overall grade goes down to a B-plus, though, because carrots just won't cook.
Review: Does it Work: The Pasta Express, Lauren Keith
Nearly two dozen owners review the Pasta Express here, giving it quite a low average rating. Only two users are pleased with it. Others say that pasta not only takes longer to cook this way, but clumps and cooks unevenly. One notes that the polycarbonate (No. 7) plastic may contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Some find the lids are tricky to fasten securely.
Review: Pasta Express, Contributors to Epinions.com
7. The Cutting Board
Several users evaluate the Pasta Express at this forum. Only one reports that it works, but she says it requires more attention to follow the instructions exactly, than it does to cook pasta on a stove. A less satisfied buyer says she turned her Pasta Express into a vase.
Review: Product Reviews: Pasta Express
At the time of our report, only three users review the Pasta Express here, unanimously giving it the lowest possible rating for long cooking times and inedible results.
Review: Tristar Pasta Express, Contributors to Amazon.com
This critical review notes that the Pasta Express doesn't save any cooking or cleanup time, and that pasta cooks unevenly in it, ending up gummy, stuck together and not cooked thoroughly.
Review: Pasta Express Review, Editors of AsSeenOnTVCritic.com
10. Coolest- gadgets.com
This brief review notes that the Pasta Express might be useful for a college dorm room, since there's no need for a stove.
Review: Pasta Express, "Mike", 2006
An irate reviewer reports that the "locked" lid on the Pasta Express spilled boiling water on her hand, burning her. Quite a few other complaints are posted here about customer service from the product's distributor, Tristar.
Review: Pasta Express Caused Blister Burns, Contributors to PissedConsumer.com, April 12, 2008
This review notes that the bottom lid can be hard to snap on, but is enthusiastic about the Pasta Express overall. The site does sell this product, so the review isn't necessarily objective.
Review: Pasta Express Review, Editors of TVTopTen.com, April 14, 2006
This brief article explains the various plastics that can be labeled No. 7, and refers to the BPA controversy but without any detail.
Review: Facts About Plastic #7, Editors of Earth911.com
This long, detailed article includes a lot of information on studies showing probable health problems from the BPA often used in polycarbonate (No. 7) plastic.
Review: Bisphenol A, Contributors to Wikipedia.org