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As you can see in the pic, the water in my pasta has a thick white substance. All I did was water, pasta, salt, boil.

What is this substance?

Is it a sign of overcooking, should the well cooked pasta be in clear water only?

How do I avoid it?

  • 2
    how much salt? how much water? boil for how long? How much water evaporated?
    – Luciano
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 9:36

2 Answers 2


Like MaxW said, it's starchy water. This happens because

Pasta is made from flour, water, and sometimes egg—that means it’s basically just starch and protein rolled out into different shapes and dried. It’s the starch molecules that are important. Once they’re heated in a moist environment—like your pot of water—the starch will absorb more and more water until it finally bursts. That sends little starch molecules into your water, resulting in white foam.

It is not a sign of overcooking. But your picture is a visible sign that there is not enough water in the pot.

To avoid it, use a bigger pot and use more water. You haven't mentioned how much water you have used for how much pasta. The Culinary Institute of America teaches one gallon of water per pound of pasta. Also, make sure you don't skip the most important step of bringing your water to "boiling" stage before you add in your pasta. Stir as soon as you add the pasta because this is when the first layer of starch is released and pasta can clump together. If there is not enough water at this stage, starchy water will look something similar to your picture. Stir your pasta often while it's boiling.

Edit: As it is kindly pointed out by Joe in comments, you may not necessarily need to use a full gallon of water per pound of pasta according to this article. However, you still need enough to cover the pasta and then pasta swells as well, as it cooks.

  • 3
    It's been shown that you don't need a full gallon of water. (although, you do want it to cover the pasta, and the pasta's going to swell as it hydrates). See seriouseats.com/2010/05/…
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 15:18
  • 1
    @Joe but erring on the side of more water will also help in preventing the "starchy mud" issue in the question by simply dilluting it more...
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 15:54
  • @Stephie : there's another article from Keiji, in which he talks about how you want the starchy water : seriouseats.com/2014/05/… . See the related cooking.stackexchange.com/q/77150/67
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 16:18
  • Cheaper brands of noodles tend to do this more. Durham wheat is a nice ingredient to see on a pasta label. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 23:29
  • Durham wheat is prized for its gluten content... which of course results in an incompatibility with some humans.
    – Adrian Hum
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 3:56

It is basically a gooey starch "gravy." Boiling noodles adds water to noodles but also extracts some starch from them. So it just starch water as if you had added flour to water.

  • 3
    It also looks as if the pasta was boiled and left with the water in the pan and has now started to break down. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 11:50
  • @yetanothercoder yes, I did that. However I didn't see a problem with it. I would cook, leave then reheat. Would you be able to elaborate why this practice and perhaps reheating should be avoided. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 12:37
  • 5
    @JamesWilson If you leave the cooked pasta in the water it'll keep absorbing water and in turn become mushy. Preferably after cooking the pasta you should strain the pasta and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process. After that you can add some oil (though I've been told certain people will say doing this is sacrilege) to the pasta and mix it through to prevent it from sticking. Use what you need and store the rest in an airtight container after letting it cool. Alternatively if your making a sauce for the pasta you can mix the sauce in with the pasta straight away. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 13:15
  • @JamesWilson: This probably also explains why your pasta tastes watery - as you asked in your other question. I assume you're trying to cook pasta the way rice are cooked/steamed with a limited amount of water. Pasta doesn't work the same way.
    – Ess Kay
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 14:36
  • @yetanothercoder thanks for answer. Makes sense. How does one reheat the stored pasta, boil in water again? Would that make it mushy again or not as much since it wouldn't boil for as long. thanks. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 17:18

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