By Sara Tane | FoodAndWine.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
Yes, there’s a time and place for rinsing your noodles.
Preparing dry pasta is as straightforward of a cooking method as they come. You bring some heavily salted water to a boil, you drop in your pasta and cook it to your desired doneness (al dente for a little bite or fully cooked through), and then maybe you reserve some pasta water before draining the noodles. See? Simple, easy, boom, done. No questions asked.
Most pasta recipes would never instruct you to rinse your pasta after cooking it. For a lot of folks, the mere thought of going through with this act seems borderline sacrilegious. However, what all of these pasta recipes have in common is that the pasta is going to be served warm, likely in a cheesy, creamy, glossy sauce of sorts. If you were to rinse your pasta after cooking it, not only would this cool the pasta down, but it would wash away a lingering, starchy film that’s encompassing the pasta noodles. By rinsing this away, you’d impede your sauce from clinging to the noodles. A true horror, I know.
To summarize, rinsing your cooked pasta would be detrimental to your final dish because that excess starch is instrumental in providing some structure and flavor to the pasta sauce that you’re creating. In fact, that’s the logic behind using pasta water instead of plain tap water in a pasta sauce. The liquid that you cook your pasta in is full of starch that the pasta has expelled, making it a great liquid to help thicken up a sauce. Starch is a wonderful thing, so why would we ever send it down the drain?
This leads us to one question: In what scenario should you actually rinse your cooked pasta? That scenario is one where you intend to serve your pasta chilled without any starchy, warm sauce alongside it. In other words, you should rinse your cooked pasta if you’re using it for a cold pasta salad or a chilled noodle salad.
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When you’re making cold pasta salads, it’s helpful to rinse your cooked pasta because it’s going to lower the temperature of the pasta, which is ideal given that it’s going to be served chilled – often alongside other cool and/or raw ingredients. Rinsing your pasta also stops the cooking process, which will ensure that your pasta isn’t overcooked and mushy. By washing away the starchy film on the pasta, you’re guaranteeing that when you toss the pasta with your other salad components and dressing, the pasta won’t stick together or clump. Each noodle or shape will be singular, cooked to perfection, and intact.
So again, the one time to run your noodles under the faucet is when they’re destined for a chilled dish. Because no one wants a gluey, gummy pasta salad – this, I can assure you.
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