For the longest time I was baffled by how much pasta to cook. I even tried buying one of those pasta measuring devices that is basically a wooded paddle with various size holes in it. It never really worked and became fodder for some future yard sale.
The answer it seems was right on the package all the time. A serving of pasta is generally 2 ounces regardless of shape. You can pickup box after box at the local big box store and most will say “serving size 2oz” (rounded to 60 grams for the metric world). All you have to do is weigh it. Therein lies the segway to one of the most useful kitchen tools around – the digital scale.
For items that compact (think flour) or are irregular shape (pasta) a serving size or ingredient portion calculated on weight is ideal. The helpful folks at King Arthur Four point out that a cup of flour can be anywhere from 4 oz to 5.5 oz depending on how it is packed. They recommend a scale. A digital scale is essential as it is not only accurate but has a “tare” feature which allows you to reset it to zero after putting a container on the scale.
Though the “serving size” for pasta is labeled as 2 ounces, the food pyramid folks with the U.S. Government think that an ounce (1/2 cup of cooked pasta) is a serving and that you should not have too many ounces a day.
That aside, I am 6’4″ and typically think 3 ounces fits the bill for me. I generally make three ounces per person.
The USDA (the food pyramid people) think that half of your grains should be whole grains. A great way to address that while having pasta is the current line of whole grain pastas. Barilla makes a great line of whole grain pastas that cook up and taste similar to regular pasta. They are available in most major big box grocers and keep for nearly forever in your pantry.
As an aside, the digital scale is also a great tool for beer making (many ingredients to measure) and soap making…but those are other posts!