sauce made with pasta water

In restaurant kitchens, pasta water is affectionately called ‘liquid gold.’ In home kitchens, many cooks just throw it out. We’re here to make a case for treating your pasta water with respect. That means seasoning it properly and taking advantage of its special properties. Here’s how to make the most of your next pasta dinner. 

Season your cooking water

Maybe you’ve heard that cooking water should be ‘as salty as the sea.’ If you haven’t tasted the sea recently, that can be a confusing rule. As a general guide, you need about 1.5 tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta. 

Why should you save that water

While your pasta is cooking, the water absorbs some of the starch from the pasta noodles. The added starch, which is the reason that the water looks a little cloudy after cooking, is what makes this product so special.It gives the water thickening power, and helps create a base for rich, smooth sauces. The water is also packed with flavor, since it’s been seasoned with salt.

seasoned pasta water
After cooking, the water looks murky because it’s full of starch

How to save pasta water

After your noodles have cooked, you’ll need to separate the pasta from the water without pouring the water down the drain. If you’re cooking long noodles like spaghetti or bucatini, you can use a pair of tongs to grab them and lift them right out of the water. Shorter noodles, like penne or rigatoni, are too small to grab with tongs. These can be fished out with a slotted spoon, or you can use a ladle to remove several big scoops of pasta water before straining the noodles in a colander. 

How to use pasta water 

Cooking water can be used to create luxurious sauces for meals like pasta al limone. The starchy water helps create smooth, emulsified sauces that are packed with flavor and perfectly coat noodles. Reserved water from cooking can also save you if something goes wrong. Is your pesto pasta feeling a little bit dry and sticky? A scoop full of starchy water can add moisture and help disperse the sauce evenly over your noodles.

Feeling inspired? Put a pot of water on the stove and get inspired by some of our favorite pasta shapes.