To rinse or not to rinse: That is the question many people ask themselves after boiling a pot of pasta. There are many firm believers on both sides of the argument — and there isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this carby conundrum. It all depends on how you plan on serving it up.
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 will help create a silkier and more satisfying emulsion of flavors. Cooling the noodles down by rinsing will also prevent them from soaking in some of that sauce as they finish cooking in it. Ko said the same is true for most stir fry noodles that you want to mix well with sauce and seasonings.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t ever rinse your pasta. In fact, if you plan on using the noodles for a cold or room temperature dish like pasta salad, Ko claimed a good rinse will work in your favor. All that starchy water clinging to the noodles to create a nice warm sauce do the opposite when combined with colder ingredients — resulting in a clumpy, sticky mess of starches. Giving them a little shower under the tap until they’re at least room temperature or completely chilled down 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 and also bring up another common misconception: Do we need to add oil to the water while boiling pasta? Many people believe it keeps the noodles from sticking together as they cook, which isn’t wrong. However, it also makes the pasta overly oily and slippery once you take it out of the pot. That might not sound like a bad thing until you notice your sauce sliding off rather than sticking to your food. As Delallo puts it, “This is how you end up with a flavorless pasta.”
To break it all down more simply: Only rinse pasta for cold dishes, never for warm ones, and don’t add oil to the water while they cook!