Pasta, we all deserve a great bowl of the stuff! (We’re pretty sure that’s a saying in Naples) The UK is obsessed with it, with the average person eating 3.5kg per month (as of 2018 data) and sales doubling year-on-year since the early 2000s.
Naturally, as a kitchen company one would feel that speaking of pasta seems a bit of a moot point, but it’s anything but moot. The kitchen is after all where food is made and enjoyed and who doesn’t enjoy sharing great food with family and friends, especially in the kitchen? (Even more so in a new kitchen… just saying.)
But how do you make a great pasta dish? We’ve spent years eating, trying, experimenting with different types, sauces, flavours and have come out with what we think are a few great tips to raise your pasta game to Osteria standards.
Boiling, salted water
When you cook your pasta remember that you need to season the water. It’s the most basic and simple element – which we see a lot of people forget. Salt is demonised, rightly so – too much in your diet is never a good thing – but your water has to almost taste like sea water to impart flavour and also help break down the pasta structure to cook evenly.
A big enough pan
One of the biggest crimes is that your pan of – now – boiling salted water isn’t big enough. For long pasta such as spaghetti or tagliatelle, remember, you need a tall pan, with lots of water. The same goes if you’re making a dish for 4 or more people. The last thing you want is your pasta sticking together because the starchy water hasn’t had enough of an opportunity to move around the pan!
DON’T PUT OLIVE OIL IN THE WATER
This is just a lie. It doesn’t help your pasta not stick together – a big enough pan stops that from happening.
Cook to al dente – nearly always
We can’t state enough how important it is cooking the pasta to al dente – to the bite. There are two reasons for this, the first is for when you finish off your dish in the sauce, you will be giving your pasta a bit of extra cooking time – which is essential so that you don’t overcook it. The second is because it is also easier to digest.
The only time you avoid al dente is with fresh varieties, especially with gnocchi or even pappardelle where they are paired with “softer sauces”.
Keep some of your cooking water
One of the biggest tips we can give anyone – and we think Jamie Oliver and Theo Randall are to thank for this generally – is to keep the cooking water. It is known as liquid gold, and the starch that has been released is perfect to place back into the dish when you go to sauce it – see the next point.
Sauce your pasta, don’t plonk!
If there is one thing we wish we could eradicate it’s the idea that sauce gets plonked on the top! If you’ve spent 10 minutes making your sauce or 5 hours, why would you treat it with such disrespect? Place a ladle or two of the sauce into the drained pasta and on a medium heat stir in the sauce, add some of the reserved water and mix until it gets thicker. Keep adding water until you have an emulsified sauce – you only need a little, but the flavour increases exponentially.
Always finish your pasta off heat!
If you’re used to serving your parmesan at the table, this is what we mean – but if you’re making pasta for a few guests, then finish your dish at the hob – off heat! Things like extra-virgin olive to dress the pasta along with grated cheese (for many tomato based sauces) are best done in the pan you’ve cooked in – it also avoids a mess! For cream based dishes, finishing off with cheese/pepper, it’s best done again, away from the table so that you can control quantities and flavour!