Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Kitchen Basics, Secret Weapons | 0 comments

Here are three simple steps that will make any pasta dish you cook better. Guaranteed. They are simple tips and within the reach of anyone who can bring a pot of water to a boil.

First, never dump pasta onto a platter or plate and spoon the sauce over it. Pasta and sauce need a little time together in the pan so they can get acquainted. Here’s how I do it, a simpler (?) variation on the theme follows. Put the sauce,about 3 cups tomato sauce per pound of pasta; much less of a thinner sauce, like white clam or oil and garlic, in a separate large, wide skillet and heat it gently over low heat. Whatever the sauce, there should be just enough of it to lightly coat the pasta. While taping one of Lidia’s shows that dealt with pasta, she mentioned, casually, that pasta should “glide” in the sauce. It is one of those observations that struck me as brilliant, but probably seemed perfectly everyday to Lidia.

Second, scoop the pasta out of the water with a wire skimmer and into the pan of sauce. (Tongs may be better than a skimmer for spaghetti, linguini and other “long goods” as they’re known in the trade.) Toss the pasta around to coat with the sauce. The reason why you do this instead of draining the pasta and adding it to the sauce is that you now have an extremely valuable and FREE resource at your disposal–the pasta cooking water. Spoon a little of the water into the pan with the pasta and bring it to a good boil. Toss the pasta around—if it doesn’t glide in the sauce, add a little more of the water. This finishes cooking the pasta in the sauce and gives the pasta a chance to start absorbing the sauce.

Third, finish off the pasta with a little butter or olive oil and a little grated cheese, if you like. Before you do either, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter/oil and cheese and stir to mix them in. That’s it. Take these three steps with your favorite homemade pasta sauce or even your favorite storebought sauce.

The simpler version I mentioned above: Ladle a little of the pasta cooking water into a heatproof cup and then drain the pasta in a colander. Put the sauce in the empty pasta pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the pasta and proceed as above. You may save cleaning up a skillet, but you now have to clean up a colander. You be the judge.