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What "other" uses for pasta water?

It's pretty well known that you can add a bit of the pasta water to your pasta as you toss it with the sauce in the pan.

But, what else do you use pasta water for? You know, that big pot of water that's leftover when you've cooked pasta (or noodles) that's got all that flour and perhaps some salt?

Me? I've been known to make a soup out of the pasta water ... add some more salt and pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil, some chopped chives and pickled radishes, and maybe some cubed tofu (if available on hand), and voila, a quick nice soup in a pinch. I do the same with the leftover water when boiling dumplings.

And you? What other uses do you have for pasta water?

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  1. Gosh, I would never have bothered to save it - especially if I'm using dried noodles, which release a very small amount of starch compared to fresh.

    8 Replies
    1. re: katecm

      I learned this from my grandmother, who took being frugal and resourceful into an art form, and if she spoke any English would have probably coined the term "frugsourceful". May she rest in peace.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        makes me think of making rock soup. :)

          1. re: melpy

            The 1947 children's book, Stone Soup? An old European folk tale about cooperation and contributing to the greater good turned into a slightly moral tale about sharing, for kids.

            Nice, but I don't know what this has to do with repurposing pasta water.;-)

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              because you start with a pot of water and end up with soup?

              1. re: sunshine842

                Well, that's how the story starts...you could stretch and say the stone was repurposed.;-)

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  well, no, of course not -- the stone was *magic*

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    No, not "magic" per se, but the owner's actions with the stone had a magical effect on the town's population, causing everyone to share what they had, overcoming hoarding and jealousy, and then was carried off by the owner, to another town, for more "repurposing." Oh, there's that word again, I guess that's the point.

                    I just googled this topic and there's quite a lot of ideas out there, bread making, risotto, paella or soup, sub for the water when making tortillas, water plants or gardens (when the water cools) kill weeds (when the water is boiling, yeah, carry a boiling pot of water outside and pour it on the weeds growing in the cracks of your driveway,) water livestock, use it to humidity your house (I do this,) as a base for sauces or to thin out hummus or pesto, or rehydrate quinoa or couscous with it. I don't advocate all these ideas, but some are interesting and some are quite useful.

    2. I use the boiling water to disinfect my sink.

      12 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        Interesting.

        I've just come to accept the fact that my sink will be a cesspool of germs, no matter how hard I try.

        1. re: smtucker

          ooh so do I. I thought I was the only oddball! I figured boiling water does a good job.

          1. re: smtucker

            It does kill some of the funk that's in your drain.

            It also helps break down some of the fats that might have slipped down the drain (residue from your dishes)

            Do run a little cold water with it, just so you don't do something stupid like melt the pipes or the glue.

            1. re: sunshine842

              "...just so you don't do something stupid like melt the pipes or the glue."

              Can that really happen? I always assumed everything down there was built to handle whatever a home cook might throw down there. Short of, like, perfectly pipe-shaped dry ice or a blast of liquid nitrogen straight from a hose or a vat of hot deep-frying fat straight from the stove.

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                Not unless someone plumbed your house with something totally inappropriate in the way of pipes. The stuff forms a chemical bond, not a mechanical bond. The "glue" is really a solvent (for PVC pipes) or solder (for copper pipes).

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  Maybe in the US (where I routinely poured it down the drains with no ill effects)...but here in Europe there are warnings in all of the cooking magazines to cut it back with some cold water.

                  Since there are European readers aplenty here, and quite a few more who visit Europe on a regular enough basis to contemplate shopping and cooking here...and I have better things to do with my day than research plumbing regulations across the European Union (like, I don't know -- frame navel lint or something) thought I'd just pass it along.

                  I *do* know that most of the manufacturers of garbage disposals in the US recommend not pouring boiling water down the garbage disposal...messes up the gaskets and valves that keep it running correctly.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    That's true, I hadn't considered garbage disposals. Also older homes may have plumbing that's put together with putty instead of solder or PVC and solvent. I don't THINK that kind of joint would be hurt, but maybe it could be. And I have no idea what they might use in Europe or other parts of the world.

                    Also campers and mobile homes may have plumbing not up to snuff. Flexible tubing and the like instead of PVC or copper.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      How strange, it might be a strange French obsession; I've certainly never seen such a warning in an Italian or German magazine (the only cooking magazines I generally read).

                      1. re: tmso

                        I don't know -- and frankly, it doesn't really matter. I live in a old house, and I really have no intention of paying to replumb the kitchen because I melted all the joints.

                        It's a lot easier to just turn on the cold water tap than it is to even ponder it too heavily.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Didn't mean to start a whole thing, just had never heard that tip before...

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I'm certainly not telling you to stop pouring cold water down your drain: if it makes you feel less worried for your plumbing, go for it. I'd just never heard of such a thing, despite sometimes reading cooking magazines in Europe. I was mildly hoping you'd either confirm or deny my suspicion that it was French magazines you were referring to.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    I used to see Martha Stewart doing this on her TV show and it always struck me as a bit over the top, but then my pipes are hardly sturdy, so I think she's on to something.

                    I sometimes cook vegetables at the same time or soon after, but I've never actually saved it for later use. I always mean to use potato water for bread but haven't yet.

                2. Is it pasta water or potato water you're supposed to put into bread dough?
                  When a big pot of water is boiling and then cooling down, I'm not unaware that it is reducing my heat bill, even if only a tiny bit.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: blue room

                    It's potato water for bread dough.

                    The soup liquid base thing is an interesting possibility, but my pasta water tends to be quite salty.

                    Sometimes, after the pasta is removed, I let the water continue to simmer to add humidity to the dry winter air in my apartment.

                  2. I use it to soak the pan I've made the sauce in.

                    1. Flush your toilet with it.

                      1. Water your plants if it's not salted.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chowser

                          ...and that is exactly what I do. I let it cool and then add it to my water collection/holding bucket.

                        2. You can use it to boil/blanch vegetables, potatoes, dumplings, more pasta, just about anything you'd cook in salted water.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Euonymous

                            Good idea, but as in save it in the frig for another day? I don't have that kind of space. For cooking multiple batches of pasta, dumplings, sure, as long as there's no concentration of salt, as the water reduces and needs to be topped off.

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              I wouldn't put it in the fridge. I don't have enough room in there either. It's OK on the cold stove for a day or two, though.

                          2. I use it to preheat the pasta bowls.

                            1. Sometimes to blanch veggies like broccoli or chard that will wind up in the sauce. I do this before boiling the pasta, not after.

                              And as someone mentioned upthread, to soak the saute pan in which I made the sauce.

                              1. OK, recipes that call for pasta water - 3 versions of pasta alla carbonara:

                                http://www.ochef.com/r69.htm
                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ni...
                                http://www.tommyeats.com/tommyeats/20...

                                So many recipes . . . so little time . . .