Mushy, chalky, whatever floats your tortellini. Pasta should* be cooked al dente—"to the tooth"—which means just until it's cooked through. You also don't need a huge amount of water—just enough to be able to keep the pasta moving. Post whatever you want, just keep it seriously about eats, seriously. With extra fat, you can get an emulsion that leaves the sauce creamy, but still loose. It's the kind of Italian restaurant where the house wine comes in a box and the Parmesan comes pre-grated in a shaker on the table. We'll add more down the road to adjust consistency. Comments can take a minute to appear—please be patient! Reply Join the conversation! There are a couple of ways to get your pasta from the pan to the sauce. Not quite yet! We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy. With small shapes, like penne or fusilli, I use a saucepan or a saucier. If your operation serves a lot of pasta dishes, you may consider choosing a bowl that truly enhances the presentation of your menu. Making sure that all of your serving plates are hot is key to great pasta texture: What looked perfect in the pan will seize up and turn overly thick if you dump it into a cold bowl. That’s why all those fancy chefs out there spend so much time on plating: because you eat with your eyes long before the food even touches your lips. * Actually, so long as you don't mind being branded a heretic by people who probably have more important things to be worried about than how other people cook their pasta, it should be cooked however the heck you want it. There was a time in this country when the default for pasta was cooked-to-mush. Don't be afraid of it! Aren't you getting pasta and sauce on your plate anyway? I actually kinda like these sorts of restaurants, in a cheesy way (literally and figuratively). Once the pasta and sauce are where you want them, remove the pan from the heat and stir in any cheese or chopped herbs you may be using. Once the pasta is in the sauce, add pasta water. The hotter your pan, the more vigorously the sauce will bubble, and the better the emulsion you'll form. Spaghetti can get a little messy, and I often serve large rigatoni vs. noodles so the staining of clothing is kept to a minimum, but whatever your preference is will work. Quick and Easy Italian-American Red Sauce in 40 Minutes or Less, Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (Dressing), Cook the Book: Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes, The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Hams, Coffee Science: How to Make the Best Pourover Coffee at Home, The Ultimate Guide to Making Ramen Noodles at Home. Without fat, you have at best watery sauce (nobody has ever said, "Waiter, my pasta is not quite wet enough"), and at worst sauce that over-thickens with starch alone and takes on a pasty texture. Alternatively, you can drain your pasta through a colander or fine-mesh strainer, making sure to save some of the pasta water. Once the pasta is in the sauce, there's a countdown timer that's automatically started and cannot be paused. If you see something not so nice, please, report an inappropriate comment. Finishing pasta, you'll notice, is a game of constant adjustments. (And you'll probably need to: The cheese has thickened up the sauce a bit, the pasta has continued to absorb water from the sauce, and some of that water will have evaporated.) And then there are the meatballs as big as your face, and the extra-extra-fried calamari with its ramekin of tomato sauce for dipping. J. Kenji López-Alt is a stay-at-home dad who moonlights as the Chief Culinary Consultant of Serious Eats and the Chef/Partner of Wursthall, a German-inspired California beer hall near his home in San Mateo. We reserve the right to delete off-topic or inflammatory comments. Quick and easy meals to cut costs in the kitchen, How to use up whatever’s at the bottom of that almost-empty jar, Give life to your leftovers with these super easy recipes, How to make simple breads without using yeast, How to make all your favourite potato chips at home. (Hey, we can’t help it if that’s what spaghetti actually looks like.). The way they serve pasta. This is the most vital step in the … Yup, you read that right. Some HTML is OK: link, strong, em. Once everything is in the pan together—cooked pasta, hot sauce, pasta water, and extra fat—it's time to simmer it. You don't want your cooked pasta to heat up in a cold pan of sauce, slowly absorbing more water and becoming mushy. All you need in order to plate the perfect portion-controlled plate of pasta is a little old meat fork. That’s why our minds have been blown by this simple trick. Your other option is to purposely undercook the pasta by a few minutes before adding it to the sauce to let it finish. If your pasta has a chalky or brittle core, it's undercooked. The sauce will start to cool down and thicken. I asked her how long she'd been working there, figuring it might be her first week or two. I add a little glug of really good extra-virgin olive oil or a pat of butter (depending on my mood and the specific sauce). With few exceptions (such as when you're making a pesto-style sauce or a simple Roman-style cheese sauce, like carbonara or cacio e pepe), pasta should be tossed with sauce that is already hot and ready. Pasta don't wait around for nobody. Transfer the cooked, sauced pasta to a warmed serving bowl or individual plates, then add the final garnishes, if you're using any. The only solution is to serve it immediately and to eat it with gusto. Kenji's next project is a children’s book called Every Night is Pizza Night, to be released in 2020, followed by another big cookbook in 2021. Do you still rely on marinara to make a meal with this standard pantry pasta? How often do you serve pasta entrées in your operation? Starchy pasta water doesn't just help thin the sauce to the right consistency; it also helps it cling to the pasta better and emulsify with the fat and cheese you're going to be adding. Spaghetti is the first thing many of us learn how to make in the kitchen (aside from toast). The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science (based on his Serious Eats column of the same name) is a New York Times best-seller, recipient of a James Beard Award, and was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. I like ripping off chunks of overly soft and saturated garlic bread, and the waiters who come around with the oversize pepper mill, as if it can rescue limp baby spinach (with dressing always served on the side). Remember: You do not want your pasta water as salty as the sea. No matter what sauce you're making—whether it's a chunky marinara, a rich and hearty ragù Bolognese, or a simple carbonara—it should acquire a creamy texture that clings to the noodles. In a separate pot, bring a couple of quarts of salted water to a boil. "You are the first person I have ever seen order that," she exclaimed in response. It's almost inevitably a plate with a nest of reheated noodles that have been tossed in oil to prevent them from sticking to each other, with a big ladleful of sauce poured over the center. Check out the video above to see exactly how this magic on a plate happens. But when it comes to pasta, especially spaghetti, even the best home chefs have a hard time making it look like anything other than tomato-y brains on a plate. "Almost two years now," she said. Once the cheese has been emulsified into the pan, it's safe to add more pasta water and reheat the sauce over a burner until everything is exactly as you want it. I use either a wide saucier—the sloped sides of a saucier make it easier to use for tossing pasta than a straight-sided saucepan—or a large skillet for my sauce. With thicker, well-emulsified sauces, it's generally safe to add the cheese directly over the heat, but with a thinner sauce or one that doesn't have much besides the cheese, adding cheese while it's still on the burner can cause it to clump. I like to drizzle on some fresh extra-virgin olive oil at this stage as well. The one thing I don't like about them? You thought you were done with that pasta water? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest recipes and tips! **That's Italian for "with enough speed to speckle one's tunic with splatters of sauce.". What exactly is the problem? Let it go longer! Fat also brings flavor of its own, as well as helping fat-soluble flavor compounds in the sauce reach your tongue. Cooking pasta in the sauce instead of in boiling water will increase the amount of time it takes to cook through. The easiest is to grab a set of tongs for long, skinny pasta, or a metal spider to fish out short pasta shapes, and transfer them directly to the pan with the warm sauce. Everyone knows that half the battle when it comes to haute cuisine is getting your plate to look just so. Pasta will continue to cook and soften as it sits. All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. Make sure to keep the sauce thinned out with pasta water as the pasta finishes cooking if you use this method.