Why You Should Save Pasta Water

The secret to the sauce.

April 28, 2020
141255999

141255999

Spaghetti cooking in large pot of salted, boiling water.

Photo by: Marta Nardini

Marta Nardini

Get a Complimentary 1-Year Subscription to the Food Network Kitchen App

Download Food Network Kitchen to sign up and get access to daily live classes, thousands of on-demand cooking classes, in-app grocery ordering and so much more. Own a Fire TV or Fire tablet? You can now get a 1-year complimentary subscription to the app — read here for more details. Terms and conditions apply.

By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen

Italian grandmothers know best — they've been saving pasta water since spaghetti was a thing. That salty, murky water adds three things to pasta dishes: flavor, body and cling. Let us explain how.

While your pasta boils in salted water it releases some starch (that explains the cloudiness), turning plain water into an unknown (until now) essential ingredient which acts as a unifier between pasta and its sauce.

Simple cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) would be lost without pasta water, which provides the body for the sauce and helps it cling to the pasta. The same is true for aglio e olio, another humble pasta dish made with garlic and olive oil — it would be overly slick and oily without the addition of starchy pasta water to coax the oil into an emulsified sauce. Pesto and penne are united in a delicious friendship thanks to the binding powers of pasta water. Sometimes sauces like meat-packed Bolognese need a little thinning out after simmering for hours, and pasta water helps loosen and flavor it without sacrificing body. Creamy carbonara sauce cools quickly; the addition of pasta water will rescue it from clumping.

And pasta water can support your culinary creativity: remember it when you need to bring leftovers or random ingredients together into a harmonious pasta meal — like this tomato, salami and smoked mozzarella pasta — fit for any Nonna.

Related links:

Next Up

How to Know When Your Steak is Done

Don't rely on tricks or gimmicks — all you need is a thermometer to nail steak every time.

Can You Freeze Eggs?

In a word: yes. But it’s important to follow a few rules.

Tips for Making Perfect Poached Eggs

Find 1000s of Food Network's best recipes from top chefs, shows and experts. And watch videos demonstrating recipe prep and cooking techniques.

Can You Freeze Cheese?

There are a few caveats when it comes to stashing cheese in the freezer.

Will Boxed Pudding Set With Almond Milk?

We put boxed pudding mixes to the dairy-free test.

French Glossary

Navigate French menus and cookbooks with confidence and ease.

How to Use Leftover Rice

From fried rice to stuffed cabbage to dessert: 15 easy recipes to use up those leftovers.

Alton Brown's Guide to Eggs

Alton Brown shows Food Network Magazine how to scramble, poach and more.
More from:

Cooking School

Latest Stories