Published: March 11, 2018

    National Noodle Month: The Most Important Ingredient When Preparing Noodles

    It’s that time of year again – now that March has officially arrived, it’s time to grab a pan, turn on the stovetop, and prepare your favorite noodle dish to celebrate National Noodle Month! The National Pasta Association has set aside the third month of the year to savor some of the most popular comfort food around the globe: good old-fashioned noodles.

    Noodles have come a long way over the course of human history. They have transformed from a novelty in the 13th century to a dietary staple in a variety of cultures. Bakers used to fashion dough into novelty shapes, cook them, and sell them as oddities 800 years ago, setting the stage for our worldwide love of noodles today.

    Last year we covered some of our favorite noodle dishes that you should try making at home, including pho, pad Thai, ramen, and ash reshteh. While we gave you some background into these delightful cultural dishes, we neglected to tell you the most important part of cooking noodles!

    Of course, you probably know the only other ingredient that you need in order to transform brittle pasta into scrumptious noodles ready to serve: water. Water is the key to unlocking the potential of any noodle-based dish. But do you know why?

    The reason why all noodles must boil in a pot of water is to release the starch from the noodle itself. The starch granules on the surface of the noodles fill with water during the boil, causing them to swell and burst. As the exuded starch leaves its granules the surface of the noodles become sticky. As the excess starch washes away and relocates to the pasta water some starch remains, staying firmly within the web of proteins that hold the shape and composition of the noodles themselves. The water acting on the noodles is what your pasta so delicious!

    Did you know that the pasta water leftover from boiling your noodles is a terrific addition to your kitchen? Don’t dump it down the drain! Use an ice cube tray and fill up the tray with the pasta water once it has cooled to a reasonable temperature. Pasta water can help provide consistency to many dishes, including soups.

    Put one “cube” of pasta water into any stew, gravy, risotto, or soup to adjust its overall consistency. Pasta water also helps the sauce for your pasta dish stick to the noodles easily, so use a splash on your current recipe as well.

    Cooks are still divided on the best use of water in preparing noodle dishes – many culinary professionals insist that keeping the pot at a rolling boil when preparing noodles will yield the best and tastiest results, as it prevents the noodles from becoming “mushy” during the cooking process. However, other cooks prefer the method of placing noodles in cold water and then boiling the water along with the noodles simultaneously. This much-debated question of water heat illustrates how important boiling is to the art of preparing the perfect noodle dish.

    No matter where you fall on the hot vs. cold debate we can all agree that noodles make for a wholesome and hearty meal. Go make your favorite pasta or noodle dish in honor of National Noodle Month, and remember to always use filtered water for best results!