How to keep pasta from sticking

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Are you sick of your pasta sticking together before you are ready to use it? In this article we tell you everything you need to know about how to keep pasta from sticking to itself. This article is primarily focused on the issue of pasta sticking together after it is done cooking. However, we do include a section at the end about how to keep pasta from sticking together as it cooks. 

How to prevent pasta from sticking

How to keep pasta from sticking

  • Cook the pasta for less time. This is the number one most important thing you can do to prevent your pasta from sticking. The longer your pasta cooks the more goopy and sticky your pasta will become. If you are using high quality pasta and your pasta is sticking together then you are likely overcooking your pasta. The best way to prevent your pasta from sticking is to follow the instructions for making al dente pasta. If the cooking instructions on your pasta box list a range of times that might be appropriate for cooking your pasta, always take the lower end of that range. 
  • Run your pasta under cold water after it is done cooking. After you are done boiling your pasta you should run the pasta under a stream of cold water until it cools. This has two purposes. First, it cools the pasta and prevents the pasta from continuing to cook. This prevents your pasta from overcooking and becoming a gloopy mess. Second, it washes some of the excess starch off of the surface of the pasta. As your pasta dries out starches on the surface of the pasta water act as a glue that sticks the pasta together. 
  • Try a different brand of pasta. If you do not feel that you are cooking your pasta and you are finding that your pasta consistently sticks together after you cook it then it might be time to try a new brand of pasta. Some pasta brands are simply formulated better than others. The best way to figure out whether the brand of pasta you are using is causing your issue is to try out a few other brands and see if the issue persists. 
  • Spread the pasta out on a tray. This one might feel like a little bit of a cheat, but hey – it works! Spreading your pasta out on a large tray that is lined with saran wrap or parchment paper after it is cooked is another way to prevent the pasta from sticking. It is hard for one strand of pasta to stick to another when the strands are not even touching each other. 

Creamy tomato and garlic pasta

How not to keep your pasta from sticking

There is one strategy for preventing pasta from sticking that we recommend avoiding and that is adding oil to your pasta. We do not recommend adding oil to you pasta as it boils or after it boils to prevent the pasta from sticking. While it is true that adding a little bit of olive oil to cooked pasta might prevent the pasta from sticking together, it will also prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta! If you want your pasta to soak up the flavor of the sauce then you should not coat your pasta in oil. 

Are there any cases where it is okay to add oil to your pasta to prevent it from sticking? As with any rule, there are exceptions. If you are coating your pasta in a sauce that is heavily oil based then it might be okay to use oil to prevent your pasta from sticking. If your sauce is oil based then the fact that your pasta is coated in oil is not going to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta. 

Outback steakhouse Mac and cheese: creamy stovetop mac and cheese with Velveeta

How to unstick pasta that has already stuck

So what happens if it is too late and your pasta has already stuck together? The best way to get your pasta to unstick is to run the pasta under warm water. Starchy water such as used pasta water works best if you have any in reserve. However, having leftover pasta water around at the point where your pasta has already dried and stuck together requires some foresight. If you anticipate that you might have issues with your pasta sticking together you should save a cup to two of your pasta water to use for these purposes. If you do not have any pasta water you can just use sink water. 

How to keep pasta from sticking while cooking

Are you looking for information on how to keep your pasta from sticking during the cooking stage? Well then luckily for you there is a simple solution to your problem – just stir the pasta more! In order to prevent your pasta from clumping together while it cooks you should continuously stir the pasta for the first 3 – 4 minutes that the pasta is cooking. After that you can relax more and only give the pasta an occasional stir. 

Out favorite pasta recipes


Creamy tomato garlic pasta

This creamy garlic and tomato pasta is absolutely packed with flavor! This pasta is made with sweet onions that are cooked until they start to caramelize, flavorful cherry tomatoes that are heated until they blister, and lots of freshly chopped garlic. You will love it!


Butternut squash alfredo pasta

We absolutely love butternut squash! That is why this butternut squash alfredo pasta is one of our favorite pasta recipes. The smooth, creamy flavor of the alfredo sauce perfectly complements the sweet, nutty flavor of the butternut squash. 


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