Chefs can enhance their pasta in many ways, from using the right amount of water to adding generous seasoning. But one of the easiest ways to make a bowl of restaurant-quality spaghetti is to skip a step entirely. According to Food & Wine, you should never rinse your pasta after cooking – unless you are preparing a specific recipe.
When noodles cook, they release starch. Most people don’t notice, but it’s an essential ingredient in many classic pasta dishes. Cloudy, starchy water can thicken and bind sauces better than plain tap water, which is why you have to reserve a cup of your cooking liquid in many recipes.
Starch will also help the sauce stick to a strand of bucatini or rigatoni tube. Sieved noodles are covered with a layer of starch film. If you put the cooked pasta in a pan or saucepan with sauce, the sauce will stick to the starchy coating. Without this coating, the sauce will slide off immediately. This is why you should never rinse your pasta: if you wash the starch off with water, bare, tasteless pasta will sit in a sauce pool instead of an integrated bowl.
There’s one exception to the never-rinse rule, and that’s pasta salad. Pasta that is to be eaten cold has different requirements than a warm dish. Starch solidifies as it cools, resulting in an uncomfortable, rubbery texture. Rinsing the product once it’s finished cooking prevents this problem and also removes any residual heat that may overcook your pasta.
Turning a pasta dish into a gourmet dish is easy when you know what you’re doing. The recipe doesn’t have to be complicated: this simple pasta sauce requires three ingredients and is hailed as one of the best in the world.
[h/t Food & Wine]