Why You Shouldn't Put Olive Oil In Pasta Water, According To Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is taking on a pasta cooking topic that keeps many of us awake at night. The "Chopped" judge took to TikTok to answer a follower's question. And depending on your pasta cooking preferences, you might not like her answer. The question in the spotlight concerns whether you should add olive oil to boiling pasta water. Guarnaschelli acknowledged that the question is controversial, but that didn't stop her from wading into this slippery debate.

The fan asked Guarnaschelli, "Should you put olive oil in boiling water when making pasta? My husband says yes." Ever the epitome of graciousness, Guarnaschelli answered the question in a TikTok video and captioned it "Olive oil in your pasta water? Controversial. Here are my thoughts. What are yours?" 

While Guarnaschelli's answer may stir the pot, pun intended, her explanation might make you think twice about adding olive oil to that pot of boiling ziti.

TikTok is divided over Guarnaschelli's explanation

Per Alex Guarnaschelli's TikTok video, the cookbook author claims that olive oil doesn't belong in the boiling water with your pasta. She explains, "... the sauce won't stick to the pasta. Oil sticks to the pasta and then the sauce slides off, and we don't want that." She goes further, noting that "You're also just pouring olive oil down the drain when you drain your pasta."

However, TikTok users were divided over that reasoning. Team Guarnaschelli showed up, with one fan responding, "She [is] absolutely right," and another offering, "Thank you! It has never made sense to me to add oil." But not everyone is in agreement.

One user claims, "Absolutely does not affect how the sauce sticks. It does however help prevent boil overs." Another fan wasn't sure whose advice to follow, noting, "Gordon Ramsay says it's to add additional flavor as well as keep the pasta from sticking especially if fresh. I don't know what is what anymore." (Still, another fan noted that Ramsay "is not Italian.")

Perhaps the jury will be out forever on this topic, leaving it up to pasta lovers' preference — and we're okay with that.

Of course, there was that time on Twitter...

Back in 2019, Alex Guarnaschelli was joking with fellow Food Network chef Scott Conant on Twitter — but some of her followers weren't sure if she was joking. Conant had complimented Guarnaschelli on her Hamptons home and invited himself over to her house for lunch, to which she responded, "Great!!! I'll break the dry spaghetti in half and add olive oil to the water so it comes out better!" One of her fans replied with, "Rinse after cooking for maximum flavor," while another wrote, "I sense snark."

But while some of her followers joined in the banter, it looks like others thought she was serious. One person tweeted, "I do that every time. Is that not the correct way to cook it?" and still another responded, "Well I do add olive oil to the water to give a supple texture to the spaghetti, linguini or what ever pasta is available." This prompted Guarnaschelli to tweet a clarification so there would be no ambiguity, writing, "This was a joke and what NOT to do. Let me be clear."

Don't rinse your pasta, either

Still not satisfied with Alex Guarnaschelli's suggestion not to add olive oil to your pasta water? We did a deep dive and stumbled upon some advice from Lidia Bastianch, an Emmy Award-winning public television host and cookbook author who also hails from an Italian background. Bastianch has said (via Smithsonian), "Do not — I repeat, do not — add oil to your pasta cooking water! And that's an order!"

Smithsonian notes that olive oil can prevent pasta sauce from properly coating the pasta. Water and oil don't mix, so when you go to pour the water out, you've created an oil layer. This oil coats your pasta, preventing tomato-based sauces from clinging to the noodles. (However, the magazine notes that if you're using oil-based sauces, such as pesto, adding olive oil won't stop them from properly coating the pasta.) But there's one more pasta faux pas that will affect whether the sauce sticks to it. 

Smithsonian cautions that if you want your sauce to stick, don't rinse your pasta after you drain it. The magazine turned to another celebrity chef for this rule, citing Giada De Laurentiis and her cookbook "Everyday Pasta." As De Laurentiis writes, "the starch on the surface contributes flavor and helps the sauce adhere." If you put your cooked pasta under the faucet, those starches are washed down the drain — so just don't.

Still, there's one thing you should put in your pasta water, and that's salt, which adds flavor. Got it?