Don’t Throw Away Pasta Water, Chefs Say It Could Make All the Difference

August 12, 2019 Updated: August 13, 2019

Everyone loves a good pasta dish no matter how young or old. It’s tasty, oh so easy to prepare, and the ingredients aren’t complicated or expensive. But there’s one thing about pasta that many of us ponder every time we visit a restaurant: Why is the stuff we cook at home never as good?

Regardless of what we do, it just doesn’t have the same creamy, smooth, saucy texture, and the flavors from the sauce never seem quite so pronounced.

Well, according to top chefs and food writers across the country, that is because we are going about making this simple dish completely wrong!

Cooked Pasta in a Colander

Let’s start with the technique. Most people boil unseasoned water, throw the dry pasta in, let it cook for the amount of time prescribed on the package, and then dump the pasta out into a colander over the sink, letting the water drain out. Meanwhile, if they are really organized cooks, they will have a sauce bubbling on the stove, which can be thrown over the cooked pasta, probably directly served on people’s plates.

The results? A pasta that is fully cooked, but maybe a little soggy or limp or else a bit dried out, and a sauce that tastes nice on its own but isn’t really mixed in with the pasta. It’s usually okay, but it’s just okay. Definitely not restaurant quality. But what went wrong?

Let’s start with cooking the pasta.

Pasta Water

Illustration – Pexels |

First of all, you don’t need fancy fresh pasta in order to achieve a good dish. Many dishes in Italy, such as the classic Roman specialty cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper sauce), specifically call for dry pasta.

Second, when cooking pasta, you don’t need to season the water with anything but one simple ingredient you’re guaranteed to have at home: salt. Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief at Bon Appetit, shares a pearl of wisdom from chef Mark Ladner, at the famous Italian restaurant Del Posto in New York. “Your pasta water should have the salinity of sea water.”

Last but not least, never, never throw away the pasta water when you’re done cooking. Why would you keep this murky water? After all, it doesn’t look very clean or appetizing. As Bon Appetit explains, the “liquid is filled with plenty of salt and leftover starch from those boiling noodles.” These are going to be the building blocks of the whole dish.

When you add them “to whatever hot fat—olive oil, butter, pork fat, all of the above—is hanging out in the pan that you’re finishing your pasta, results in a luxuriously smooth sauce.”

Illustration – Pixabay | picjumbo_com

Pasta sauce

Illustration – Pixabay | Engin_Akyurt

As Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, explains, “the problem is most people make pasta and they make their sauce, but they don’t really marry the two together well.” For Rapoport, what restaurant cooks do so well is “creating this harmony between pasta and the sauce, and making it glossy and saucy and luscious and delicious.”

The key is to cook your pasta to al dente in the water, then take it out and put the still-wet pasta directly into the saucepan where you have your base going, such as olive oil and garlic. You mix everything together and spoon some water from the noodle pot in to cook down. Here’s where the magic happens as everything combines together to make the sauce of your dreams.

Rather than adding cheese on afterward, you should mix into the sauce, as “that’s what’s really going to pull the entire sauce together,” Rapoport explains.

Pasta tools

Pasta Tongs

What do you need to make pasta? Well, the key ingredients are pretty simple. 1) A good-sized pot for boiling the noodles. 2) Some stainless steel pasta tongs (the kind that have “teeth” so you can get all the noodles). 3) A colander that fits inside a big pot, so you can drain the noodles without losing the “liquid gold” they’ve been cooking in.

And that’s it. Now, you know how to make the best restaurant-quality pasta dish right in the comfort of your home. Impress your friends and family with the results!

How to Finish Pasta the Right Way

No noodle left unsauced.FULL STORY:

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