3 Reasons to Save the Whole Pot of Pasta Water (Beyond Sauce)

updated Oct 20, 2020
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You’ve probably been instructed in pasta recipes to save a cupful of pasta water — either for making a sauce or adjusting the thickness and seasoning of one —but I’d love to see more people saving the whole pot of water. Instead of draining your pasta in a colander and watching all that pasta water go down the drain, you could be saving it and putting it to better use.

This starch-rich water is more than just a sauce ingredient: When you cook pasta in heavily salted water, the pasta releases a decent amount of starch, creating a rich broth that can be used for so much more than tonight’s dinner. Here are three excellent uses for leftover pasta water — beyond sauce.

3 Very Good Reasons to Save Your Pasta Water

First, let’s talk about the logistics of saving your pasta water. If you’re just going to save a small amount, you can set a measuring cup in your colander as a reminder. When you want to save a whole pot of pasta water, though, use a spider or some tongs to remove the pasta — plopping it directly in your sauce or into a colander — and leave the pasta water in the pot to cool. After cooling you can move to an airtight container for storage in the fridge or pour it into ice cube trays for freezing for future uses. Obviously this frozen stash can be used for thickening future sauces, even when you aren’t cooking pasta, but these are some other smart ways to use pasta water.

1. Use it as a base for soups and stews.

Leftover pasta water adds a heft and richness to soups and stews that store-bought broth can’t. Use the two together and your basic weeknight soup tastes like it was slow-simmered all afternoon. When you plan to use up pasta water in a soup, be gentle with the salt as you build the soup base — leftover pasta water can be quite salty.

Making a quick gravy for pork chops? Use the leftover pasta water to deglaze the pan for a quick pan sauce or in place of broth for gravy.

2. Bake bread and pizza dough with it.

Sourdough, quick breads, and your weekly pizza dough can benefit from pasta water used in place of plain water. The extra starch contributes to browning and crispy crusts, and can enhance the chewiness of quick breads. Omit the salt called for in your bread or pizza crust when subbing in pasta water for plain in baking.

3. Use it for cooking dried beans.

Similar to adding a bit of kombu to your pot of beans or broth, cooking your beans in the salty pasta water seasons them and helps soften the bean’s skins. The pasta water’s natural starch makes an incredible broth with the beans, too.

Do you have a favorite way to reuse pasta water? Tell us below in the comments!