If you look at our recipes on our website, or search around for pasta recipes, it's very common to see "pasta water" as an ingredient. Pasta water, or pasta cooking liquid, is the water you usually pour down the drain after you've cooked your pasta.
Why is pasta water so popular?
This murky water can actually be very beneficial in your cooking! Liam and I call it liquid gold (ok, not really). But we love incorporating it into any pasta dish we make. The water contains high amounts of starch, which is a great binder and thickener to your homemade pasta sauce. It also allows you to use a little less butter/cream/flour if desired.
How do I use pasta water?
I usually have a glass measuring cup ready to pour 1-2 cups of pasta water into before I drain the rest of the water.
Does pasta water vary in flavor?
There's a difference in the pasta water from a mass manufactured box pasta vs. our handmade pasta. Because we use whole foods to flavor our pasta, the cooking water not only includes starch, but it also holds some of the flavor from the pasta! When you add the pasta water back into your dish, you're making it even more flavorful.
How can I apply the pasta water method to a dish?
Have you ever heard of cacio e pepe? Translated to "cheese and pepper", this is a staple Italian pasta dish that comes together quickly (although needs a bit of practice) with only 3 ingredients - pasta, pecorino, and pepper (and pasta water!). We found a great video on YouTube from Italian chef Luciano Monosilio on how to make cacio e pepe. Click here for the video.
There are no measurements in the video. My caution to you is to start light on the pepper and add as desired, or you might end up with a very spicy, not-so-tasty dish (do we know this from experience? yes...). Watch until minute 5:45. After that, he goes into a couple of other recipe variations, but we like the first one the best.
The video is full of tips and tricks, some of the big ones being:
- Cool down the pasta water before adding.
- Be careful when heating the pasta and sauce together, not letting it get too hot to prevent stringy cheese.
- Toast the peppercorns before grinding! Added boost of flavor.
For a more traditional option, use our Sea Salt Tagliatelle for your Cacio e Pepe dish. After that, you can get creative with different flavors! We love using Basil Cracked Pepper, but decrease the pepper you add. Butternut Squash and Tri-Color Spaghetti would also be great options.
Saffron Tagliatelle is also a GREAT flavor to use the pasta water, because the subtle and fancy saffron flavor will come through even more in your dish. Check out our White Wine Tomato Sauce with Squid Ink and Saffron Tagliatelle which uses pasta water.