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Friday, August 19, 2022

Using Pasta Cooking Water

In my efforts to use it all, I started saving my pasta cooking water to use as part of the liquid in soups and gravies. The cooking water is starchy, so it gives soup some body without adding any other thickeners. It also has some flavor. So I figured I may as well use this water when preparing other meals. I've been using the starchy water in soup, gravy, and as a substitute for part of the milk in white sauce/cheese sauce for binding casserole ingredients.

Friday lunch, I made a tomato, basil, and garbanzo bean soup using the pasta water from earlier this week. I normally thicken the tomato base with flour for this soup. The pasta liquid gave enough body to the soup that thickening with flour was unnecessary. I was also able to cut the salt for the soup in half, due to the already flavorful pasta water.

To save the cooking water, instead of putting the colander in the sink, I place it in a heat-resistant bowl that's placed on a trivet (the water will be hot). My favorite bowl for this task is a large, heavy duty glass measuring pitcher. I strain the liquid into the bowl and allow it to cool before transferring to a canning jar. I keep it in the fridge for up to a week and use it when I'm making soup, gravy, or white sauce. It's a thick liquid, giving substance to white sauce (used half and half with milk) where just water would be too thin.

If you're in the habit of using lots and lots of water for cooking pasta, Cooking Light actually recommends using less water, just enough water to keep the pasta covered while boiling. They recommend (and I agree) stirring the pasta during the first few minutes of cooking to prevent the pasta pieces from sticking to each other, in lieu of boiling in a large quantity of water. The result of using less water in cooking is a thick, starchy liquid. In contrast, using several quarts of water for cooking  a family meal of pasta will dilute the flavor and starch in the end water.

Do you reuse pasta cooking water? What are your thoughts?


  1. I occasionally use water from my cooked pasta, but not usually. That's interesting that Cooking Light says to use less water and stirring when cooking pasta. That's the way I do it because it seems more efficient and less wasteful. Good to know that I'm not doing it "wrong" according to the directions I learned.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I always thought I was doing the pasta "wrong" because it cooked it in a smaller pot and used less water. And I cooked pasta that was because a large pot would waste more water, take longer to come to a boil, and would be larger to wash afterward. As they say, great minds . . .
      Have a great weekend, Live and Learn.

    2. Me, too, on using a smaller pot with less water. For me it's always been a time and convenience thing, but it's good to know that I'm doing it the "correct" way. I don't think I've ever used pasta water for cooking, though.

    3. Hi Kris,
      Another for less water when cooking pasta. Great minds . . .
      It is a time thing for me, too. Less water to pour from the faucet then come to a boil means it's faster to complete the dinner.
      If you don't want to use the pasta water in cooking, I've seen where some people water plants with it. I don't know if it's outdoor or indoor plants.
      Have a great rest of your weekend, Kris.

  2. I make very little pasta and with us being diabetic no way would I reuse that starchy water.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Good point. Are there any pastas that are low on the glycemic index scale? My brother is diabetic. I'm not sure if he eats pasta, but I know he can't resist a good pizza (probably also starchy and not great for diabetes).
      Thanks for your input.

  3. We eat pasta a couple of times a year. My husband doesn't like foods made different. He won't eat bake goods with almond flour so I don't bake often either. Pizza I will make but not often either, see my tread? I can see a baked potato or rice but less than 2 oz of pasta, my husband would be so grouchy.😁

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I've had non-wheat pasta and didn't care much for it. So I can understand your husband not really wanting to try a different pasta or baked goods made with low-glycemic flour.

  4. Oh for sure! I too tend to be conservative using water when cooking pasta, but any leftover pasta cooking water becomes all or part of the liquid for my next batch of homemade bread. The starch feeds the yeast, making adding sugar unnecessary. Been doing it for years and works like a charm....

    1. My mother always used the water from boiling potatoes for making bread for the same reason.

    2. Hi friend,
      Thanks for the input on using pasta cooking water in bread-baking. I'll definitely give this a try.

      And, Live and Learn, I've read that potato cooking water can be used in bread baking. Thanks for sharing what your mother did. I may give that a try this fall and winter when I am regularly cooking potatoes again.


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