I know you're supposed to put salt in the water when you're cooking pasta, both to aid in anti-starch gelation and to add flavour.

This got me thinking - what ELSE can pasta absorb from the water it is boiled in? I suppose it couldn't be anything, probably depends on the surface of the pasta, its cells, etc.

To test I put a LOT of nutmeg in a bowl of water, boiled it and dropped some couscous in it.

The couscous didn't taste like nutmeg at all. I guess it could be because the nutmeg does not dissolve in water but still - does pasta absorb everything that is dissolved in the water it is cooked in? Does that mean we can create super-pasta if we boil it in sauce or something?

  • (kind of a serious and curious question ),If you bake a lasagna and after baking it you remove the pasta sheet and quickly rinse them under water , do they retain flavor ?
    – Max
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 15:26
  • See my answer; I'd expect nutmeg to work. How long did the couscous cook, and did you add nutmeg to the water first?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:29
  • @FuzzyChef, yup added nutmeg to the water, left it on the stove until it started boiling - added the couscous. Don't remember for how long it cooked but when I took it out it was nicely chewy.
    – J. Doe
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    Interesting. There were fairly comprehensive tests at Cooks Illustrated that refuted the idea that adding salt made for any texture changes. I can't say I trust that answer, which makes a lot of bald statements of fact with zero links.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:52
  • 1
    food coloring. don't ask me how i know...
    – dandavis
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 21:46

1 Answer 1


It can absorb spices.

I have a Sicilian couscous recipe which involves boiling large couscous in water with a couple of cinnamon sticks. The couscous tastes mildly of cinnamon when it's done, which is part of the balanced spicing of the recipe. The large couscous in this case is boiled for 7 minutes, and you put the cinnamon sticks in while the water is still cold.

  • 2
    Not spices, you won't see chunks of basil mid-noodle. Specifically: It absorbs water-soluble compounds in spices (aromatics, esters, etc), but won't absorb oil-based (eg clove) flavors.
    – dandavis
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 21:44

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