Pasta Tip – Don’t Add Oil

March 23, 2006 5 Comments

Pasta Tip - Don't Add Oil

Why You Don’t Want to Add Oil to the Water When Cooking Pasta

I get a lot of emails from visitors who have read my pasta tips page with the suggestion of adding a little oil to the pot of boiling water to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

I did this for years until my friend and professional chef Ricco Deluca told me this is a bad idea. A real no-no.

Why you may be asking yourself since this is one of your favorite pasta cooking tips that you have been doing for as long as you can remember?

Because yes the pasta won’t stick together but neither will the pasta and the sauce. The oil prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta. You end up with a pile of pasta with all the sauce in the bottom of the bowl.

A better tip for preventing the pasta from sticking together is to use plenty of water. It may take a more time to bring a bigger pot of water to boil but you’ll find the pasta tastes better, doesn’t form into a big gluey mess and the sauce sticks to it the way it should.

Use the Pasta Water To Your Advantage

A great trick professional chefs use all the time is to save some of the pasta water (1/2 – 1 cup) before draining. They add some of this water back into their sauce to help the pasta sauce better stick to the pasta.

How does this work?

There is starch in pasta. When you boil the pasta, some of the starches are transferred into the water. So if you add a little of that “starchy” water to your sauces, the starch in the sauce helps it adhere to the starchy pasta.

If you’re concerned the water will thin out your sauce, it might but all you have to do is keep the sauce on the heat a little longer and let it cook down to your desired consistency.  Just be careful not to add too much starchy water.


Click on this link for more pasta cooking tips and if you have any of your own, please add them to the comments section for other reader to try.




Last modified on Wed 15 February 2017 12:17 pm

Comments (5)

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  1. ces says:

    thanks! my question answered at last!

  2. Colin says:

    I often find that once drained the pasta may be inclined to then start sticking together. This is the point where many people say that the past should be briefly rinsed under cold water or that a drizzle of oil will help prevent the sticking. I find that neither approach is particularly effective or appealing. My usual strategy which all my italian friends use too is to quickly add a ladle of what ever sauce is being served with the pasta to the pasta and stirring it through. This gives the pasta a thin coating which prevents it from sticking together and adds a little colour to the serving bowl making for a more attractive presentation. It still allows each diner to individually add the amount of sauce they prefer when serving; I don’t usually combine all the sauce and pasta before serving.

  3. Mike says:

    That only makes sense if you add sauce. What if you serve it without sauce?

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Mike, I’m guessing most folks serve pasta with some kind of sauce but if you are just going to add oil, go for it.

    • John R says:

      Mike, In the case of not adding sauce, after draining the pasta, I quickly melt some butter in the hot, empty pasta pot and then return the pasta to the pot and stir to coat the pasta. this gives a fine, non-stick coating to the pasta that your guests won’t notice as a taste difference

      [I also find that stirring the pasta with something round – like a spurtle or the handle of a wooden spoon doesn’t cut, tear or break the cooked pasta as much as other implements that have edges].

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