Pasta is one of the easiest, fastest things to cook at home. When you’ve had a long day, when it’s rainy, when you forgot to eat and drank two glasses of wine instead — all you want for dinner is a plate of pasta, right? I absolutely despise the word “elevates” in this context, but that is exactly what these tips too. It takes your pasta from good to GOOOOOD. In a matter of seconds. Really. Read on…
1. Salt your pasta water. I say it all the time and I yell at my friends when they don’t do it (sorry!) but it really does make a HUGE difference. Unsalted pasta is bland and gummy — salted pasta is good enough to eat on its own with olive oil and a little butter. Out of habit, I always add the salt once I’ve filled my pot with cold water, but my Italian friend adds it right after she’s added the pasta to the already boiling water.
2. Reserve some (salted) pasta water. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why you would ADD pasta water BACK to your pasta RIGHT AFTER YOU’VE DRAINED IT. That doesn’t make any sense right? I thought it would thin out the sauce and end up being a puddle of water underneath a pile of spaghetti. But! But. There is logic. That foggy, salty, starchy pasta water going down your drain? Save some of it — really (a cup is plenty). What it does is act like a binder for your pasta and the sauce. It really pulls the two together. The secret is to…
3. Finalize your pasta over heat. When it’s time to pull the whole thing together, do it over the stove, like a stir-fry. I generally will just dump the pasta directly in the pot or skillet that’s heating up the sauce, and THAT’S when I’ll add the pasta water, if needed. You’ll be surprised how quickly the pasta will absorb the liquid!
4. When it doubt, add butter. You know how pasta at restaurants is always suspiciously creamy, even if it’s tomato based? Buttah, friends. Buttah. A little goes a long way, too — one tablespoon will add a richness to even an entire pound of pasta.
5. Grate in some parmesan, then stir. People often leave the parmesan for a finishing garnish at the table, but the cheese actually adds a dimension of salty goodness that is worth stirring in before it hits the table.
Photo by Dee Sullivan for 3 Chairs.