The Simple Solution to Saving Your Pasta Water Every Single Time

updated Oct 6, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

Pasta-cooking water is a free and efficacious ingredient, if we can just remember to save a bit when draining the pasta. After cooking, this water has both starch and salt, making it ideal for last-minute sauce adjustments. A splash of pasta water thins thick pesto and helps it cling to your fusilli, but it also thickens creamy dishes like Alfredo or cacio e pepe. The only problem with pasta water? You have to actually remember to scoop a bit out before draining your pasta.

In the hustle and bustle of weeknight cooking, I often forget to ladle out a bit of this magical elixir for seasoning and adjusting pasta sauces. Recently I learned a small tip, though — one that doesn’t require more than better organizing myself before cooking — and it has saved me the heartache of pouring all my pasta water down the drain before capturing a bit for dinner.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

To Save Pasta Water Every Time, Set a Cup in Your Colander

I read this smart tip for saving pasta water on Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: A Love Story blog about a month ago, and it was a total revelation: When a recipe calls for 1/3 or 1/2 a cup of water, just set that measuring cup in your colander before you get cooking. I typically set myself up for draining after I put the pasta water on to boil. Then, when it is time to drain, the tool you need to capture reserved pasta water is waiting there as a visual reminder to scoop off some water before draining.

Another beautiful benefit of draining cooked pasta in a colander, rather than pulling it out with tongs or a spider and leaving the pasta water in the pot, is that I can sauce some pasta and return some plain pasta to the pot to coat with butter and Parmesan for my one picky eater without dirtying an extra dish.

“What about the nights I’m just throwing pasta together with whatever is in the fridge?” you ask. Well, even the handful of cherry tomatoes you blister in some olive oil with garlic can benefit from a splash of pasta water! On the nights when a precise pour of reserved water is not required I simply set a mug or other heat-safe vessel in the colander as a reminder.