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When I am cooking at home I usually cook with dry, store bought pasta shapes. Before I cook it I usually partly wash it under the tap so that the water isn't too cloudy when it cooks, I don't usually bother to wash it thoroughly so there is still some cloudiness.

My question is basically, is it necessary to wash pasta before cooking it? Is there an advantage to washing it completely so it is boiling in clear water? I think it is just the starch that is being washed off (please correct me if I am wrong) so by washing it the cooked pasta would not stick together as much but I haven't tested it.

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The clouding is indeed the starch washing off. Personally, I don't, as I usually use some of the water to make the sauce. –  razumny Feb 17 at 17:58

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

No, there's no need to wash the pasta, and really, it's best not to.

It's good that the water gets cloudy from the pasta starch. If it has enough starch in it, it'll leave the surface of the noodles a bit stickier, making sauce adhere better. And you can also use some of the pasta water in a sauce to the same end. Getting the water that starchy generally requires using less water (see What is the correct water to pasta ratio?). If you're using tons and tons of water, like the pasta package probably says, it's probably going to be too diluted.

The one case in which you might want to wash the pasta is if, even when you start it from cold water and stir enough, it sticks. The only kind of pasta I've had this happen with is orecchiette, which is shaped perfectly for getting it to stick to itself.

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Only makes sense to wash the pasta if you're making a cold pasta salad (and this is usually done AFTER It cooks).

The starch is necessary for the sauce to stick to the pasta (if you're water is EXCEEDINGLY cloudy, you may not be using enough water). The water should also be salted generously.

You should take some of the cloudy, starchy water and put it in your sauce. This, along with the starch that forms on the outside of the pasta, will allow the sauce to stick to the pasta properly. This will also cause the pasta to stick together obviously, but the trick is to add the pasta directly to the sauce as soon as it turns al dente (or slightly before). Cook it for a minute in the sauce. The coating of sauce on the pasta will prevent it from sticking now, and the flavors of the sauce will soak into the pasta as a bonus.

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No. There's absolutely no point in washing the pasta before cooking, unless you don't like the starch flavour (which is obviously matter of a person's taste).

Conversely, you may want to preserve all the starch and, to avoid throwing it away, there is a particular cooking technique, in which you put the dry pasta int a pan, and start adding hot water (or broth) little by little, waiting for it to evaporate, until the pasta is fully cooked.

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