To rinse or not to rinse: That is the question many people ask themselves after boiling a pot of pasta. There are strong opinions on both sides of the argument — and there isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this carb conundrum. It all depends on how you plan on serving it.
If you’re cooking the pasta for a warm plate of spaghetti carbonara or classic marinara, do not rinse those noodles! Genevieve Ko, former cooking editor for the Los Angeles Times, explained that you want the lingering bits of starchy pasta water (AKA “liquid gold”) clinging to the noodles and mixing with the sauce. It helps to create a silkier and more satisfying emulsion of flavors. Cooling the noodles by rinsing also prevents them from absorbing sauce as they finish cooking in it. Ko said the same is true for most stir fry noodles with sauce and seasonings.
That’s not to say you should never rinse your pasta. In fact, if you plan on using the noodles for a cold or room temperature dish like pasta salad, Ko says a good rinse will work in your favor. The starchy water that amplifies a warm sauce does the opposite when combined with cold ingredients — it creates a clumpy, sticky mess. Giving the noodles a little shower under the tap until they’re at least room temperature will keep that from happening. It will also stop their cooking process so they don’t get mushy.
The Italian food experts at Delallo echo Ko’s advice. They also address another misconception: Do you need to add oil to the water while boiling pasta? Many believe it prevents noodles from sticking together as they cook, which isn’t wrong. However, it also makes the pasta overly oily and slippery when you remove it from the pot, which causes sauce to slide off instead of stick to your food. As Delallo puts it, “This is how you end up with a flavorless pasta.”
Put simply: Only rinse pasta for cold dishes, never for warm ones, and don’t add oil to the water while they cook.