When it comes to cooking pasta, rinsing is one of the great debates. People have strong feelings about this — some always rinse hot pasta straight out of the pot, and others would never be caught dead doing so.
Who's correct? Both parties — sort of. Whether or not to rinse ultimately depends on how the pasta will be used.
Once cooked and drained, pasta is coated with a starchy film. There are some instances when this proves a useful addition in serving the pasta, and other times your dish benefits from rinsing this starchy coating away.
When to Rinse Cooked Pasta & Noodles
- Pasta salad: When being used for a cold salad, pasta should always be rinsed after cooking. This serves two purposes. First, it stops the cooking process immediately. Rinsing in cold water brings the temperature of the pasta down, which you don't want when eating it hot, but is OK in this instance since the pasta will be served cold. It also keeps the pasta loose for the salad. When left unrinsed, the starchy coating can make the pasta gummy and clump together.
- Stir-fry: When using spaghetti or any kind of Asian-style noodles — like soba, udon, or rice noodles — for stir-fry, they should always be rinsed after cooking. The starchy film on the noodles would otherwise make them gummy and clump together when stir-fried. Rinsing does cool the noodles down, but this is fine since they'll be cooked again in a hot pan.
Otherwise, never rinse your pasta!
- When serving pasta hot, with sauce, it should never be rinsed — just drained. The starchy film is crucial in helping the sauce cling to and get absorbed by the pasta.