Do you add oil to the pasta water?

Ruta writes,

“I have a question about oil for the cooks. Do you add it to boiling water when cooking pasta? Or do you use margarine or butter instead? What’s the difference or significance of doing this step before adding the pasta if you do happen to cook pasta this way? It was just something everyone has done in my family and passed it down through the generations and I’ve wondered why. Thank you for your feedback.”

Dear Ruta,

You don’t need to do this step at all.  You should salt your pasta water, which will add flavor to the pasta and may make the water boil faster, but don’t add oil or butter.  It won’t stick to the pasta and is just a waste.  However, one you drain your pasta, you can add the oil or butter then (we don’t like margarine).

If you are making a skillet sauce for your pasta, you can skip the butter/oil step altogether and once the pasta is drained, throw it in the skillet with the sauce and give it a toss before serving.

If you’ve got a big pot of sauce on the stove, you can drain your pasta and then add a ladle or two of sauce to the pasta, give it a toss and then add it to the serving bowl.  This will take the place of the oil or butter, which is just needed to keep the pasta from sticking or to flavor it if you aren’t going to be adding it to any sauce or any sauce to it.

-The Cooks

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