Should You Put Olive Oil in Pasta Water?

No, you should never put olive oil in pasta water because it makes the pasta slick and stops the sauce from adhering properly.

Most folks have these two ingredients in their kitchen so naturally might be inclined to mix the them together. But that’s not a very good idea and here’s why:

  • It reduces the ability of sauce to cling to the pasta
  • It affects the texture and may lead to overcooking
  • It can create a greasy taste and doesn't great add flavor
  • It's wasteful and inefficient

In this post we talk about why you shouldn't add olive oil to pasta water and break down each reason. Let's dive in.

semolina pasta

Why it Makes it Hard for Sauce to Cling to the Pasta

Take a look at a package of really great pasta. Pull out a piece and you'll find lots of mini ridges with white specks of flour dusted across each one. That is the texture and its what the sauce sticks to when mixed together.

Putting olive oil in pasta water essentially makes these ridges and textures smooth and if they become smooth the sauce has nothing to cling on to. don't believe us? Let's hear from an expert.

We spoke with Leah Ferrazzani of L.A.’s Semolina Artisanal Pasta and here's what she had to say:

"Please don’t put oil in your pasta water. I hear this all the time, that I put a little oil in my water to keep the pasta from sticking together. But all you need is a bigger pot with room for your pasta to move around, and maybe a wooden spoon to give it a stir when you add it to the pot.

When you add oil to the water you make the surface of the pasta slick, and so while it won’t stick to itself, your sauce also won’t stick. At Semolina, we use bronze dies to give the pasta a rough surface texture to hold sauce, and if you add oil you are counteracting that."

We couldn't agree more. As an olive oil producer, avid cook, and born and raised Italian our cofounder Giuseppe has cooked pasta quite literally thousands of times and he's perfected it.

Olive oil is a fantastic cooking fat but it's best used as the foundation for sauces such as ragu bolognese, tomato sauce, or salad dressing. It's also great for finishing dishes like beans, soups, and roasted vegetables.

It works well in all of these setting because it's being used at the beginning or end of the cooking/preparation process and it's not mixed with a copious amount of water. And yes, soup technically is mostly liquid but it has vegetables and other foods to bulk it up so it's not the same as a pot full of water.

Why it's Inefficient and Wasteful

Adding olive oil to pasta water is honestly a waste of product because it doesn't help build texture or add flavor. In fact, it can even add an undesirable greasy texture and flavor. Yes, even a high quality EVOO can add not so great flavors under the right, or should we say wrong, circumstances.

In addition, when you strain out the water you also strain out all of the oil. So you're pretty much dumping money down the drain.

Here's what Leah had to say about this:

"Save your oil—and use good olive oil— for making an exceptional pasta aglio e olio after your pasta comes out of the water, or finish a dish with a drizzle of a great finishing oil to add good flavor and a luxurious texture.”

semolina pasta

How to Get Pasta to Stop Sticking Together

Simply use more water and be generous with the salt. It's recommended to use about 4-6 quarts per pound of pasta. Stir immediately after adding the contents to the water and then again every few minutes. This helps prevent sticking and ensures even cooking.

When Do I Remove the Pasta from the Water?

About 2 to 3 minutes before it's al dente, see package instructions. We do this because the pasta needs to cook with the sauce for the last few minutes. This is especially true with dishes like Aglio e Olio and Orecchiette with Broccoli.

Shop our collection of high quality Italian EVOOs!

Recipes you might like...

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce with Fresh Pasta

Authentic Creamy Carbonara

Traditional Pasta al Pomodoro 

Hey, we wrote a cookbook and guide called The OO Enthusiast, have you ordered it yet?

If you make this recipe please let a comment and let us know! We love to hear from you. If you’re on InstagramFacebook, or TikTok don’t forget to tag us and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!

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