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When to "Rinse" Cooked Pasta...

  • f

I was always under the impression that you do *not* rinse cooked pasta if you are going to put a warm sauce over it.

A recipe for Baked Ziti I will be making tonight calls for "rinsing" the pasta after cooking to al dente. Your thoughts on "rinsing"?

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  1. I'd go with your first impression---don't rinse. The only time I rinse pasta is when I'm going to use it in a cold salad.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Anne

      That's what I was about to write...

      1. re: Anne
        p
        Paul Trapani

        I always followed the rinse the pasta for pasta salad rule until recently. The alternative I found is to spread the pasta one layer deep over a baking sheet. Those half sheet commercial jobbies work well. I add some oil or whatever dressing the pasta salad will use to keep it from sticking together.

        I'm much happier doing it this way as I always felt rinsing takes something away from the pasta and did it grudgingly for pasta salads.

        I can't take credit for the tip since I remember reading it in The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Guliano Hazan.

      2. I personally would not. The rationale is either to stop pasta from cooking - since it will be baked afterwards overcooking is an issue - but that is addressed by cooking them to just before al dente stage.

        Another reason - if the pasta is to sit on its own before being baked it will be sticky, so rinsing would help with that. However, a better way would be to stir a small amount of olive oil or butter and toss your pasta so that it coveres the strands. Just remove an equal amount from the sauce if you are worrying about calories.

        1 Reply
        1. re: summertime

          But theoretically, adding olive oil or butter to the pasta will not only prevent the pasta from sticking to each other, but it will also prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta. Much the same way that running the pasta under cold water will rinse the starch off the pasta and prevent the sauce from sticking.

          I would just cook the pasta to slightly before it is cooked al dente, i.e., not cooked enough to eat it that way, and then just continue with the rest of the recipe. I've never heard of cooling down pasta before mixing it with sauce and cheese to make Baked Ziti. I've always made it with hot pasta right from the water.

        2. I rinse pasta - in hot water, not cold - whenever its going to sit for more than a minute unsauced, but will eventually be tossed with the sauce. This is to keep the pasta from sticking to itself. If it is going to sit unsauced and eventually just have a sauce poured on top, then I go with the olive oil method.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Jacquilynne

            do you think that tossing the pasta with oil will affect how well the sauce will cling to it? I tend to toss the warm pasta with a bit of the sauce - just enough to keep it from sticking. I add more sauce later just before serving. I have used olive oil on pasta that I'm going to use for a salad but one could use some of the dressing/vinaigrette also. (depending on how long it will sit before being consumed)

            1. re: gordon Wing
              j
              JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

              Olive oil to keep pasta from sticking is a definite no-no. The sauce all slips off the pasta and pools at the bottom of the dish. Better to add a bit of the sauce and toss to coast.

              Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

              1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                Some of the traditionalists will even tell you to add a bit of the cooking water back into the pasta after draining it.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Usually that only if you need to dilute the sauce a bit.

                  As for letting it sit, I try not to do that in the first place, but if I have to, then I add a little of the sauce immediately, then add the pasta into the rest of the sauce being heated/cooked in the pot to finish it off over heat. It separates again just fine assume you boiled it fast enough in the first place to keep it from sticking together while it cooked. Once you oil it, sauce barely absorbs into the pasta unless you let it sit much too long. Can't imagine a hot pasta dish in which I would "pour the sauce on top" with no expectation of it being absorbed by the pasta at least to some degree.

                  For something like a cold pasta salad, a little oil seems to keep it from getting gummy, but you need to use only enough to put a film on it - otherwise it gets gross IMO.

          2. don't do it. if sticking is an issue, add a bit of sauce to keep it separate.

            1. You are "rinsing" the pasta for this specific recipe only. The word rinsing is inappropriate and should not have been used. You are rinsing under cold water to stop the cooking process. Think of the ziti as being parboiled. Fully boiled ziti would fall apart when you baked it with the sauce and cheese. After you've rinsed it and stopped the cooking process, you can add a little sauce so it doesn't clump up before you assemble the other ingredients. The recipe sounds quite reliable, follow it exactly as written. If a problem arises after your first test run, come back and someone will have the answer you seek. If your oven is properly calibrated, it is almost impossible to ruin baked ziti.