Is it really necessary to stir pasta while cooking?

Imagine taking a bunch of wet soaking noodles and roll them into one large mound. Let that mound of pasta sit for a bit, then give it a try. Chances are it tastes like eating a sticky morsel with no flavor, and that’s exactly what could happen if you don’t stir your pasta frequently.

According Smithsonian Magazine, stirring the pasta helps keep your noodles from sticking to the pan or together. As these noodles stick together, they “clump” together and cook unevenly, causing you to chew on a bundle of soft, perfectly cooked noodles that are stuck to harder, undercooked noodles. But why does pasta stick anyway, and how does stirring help prevent it?

As Initiated explains, within the first few minutes of the boiling process, your pasta is going to be coated with a very thick layer of starch. If you were to throw your noodles in the water and leave them as they are, the starch helps bind the noodles together. If you’ve ever eaten french fries stuck together, it’s actually very similar (via Idaho Potato). The starches in pasta and potatoes act like a “glue”, holding everything together. It’s only when you stir your pasta that the starches never have a chance to bind.

But let’s say you don’t want to spend all that time hovering over your pan watching and tossing your pasta. How often should it be stirred?