5 Tips To Improve Your Pasta Dishes
You might eat pasta at least once a week. I certainly do. It’s an absolute favourite of mine and there are endless ways to cook with it.
I love to cook huge bowls of pasta for family, friends and parties. Below are a few tips I’ve learnt along the way to give my pasta that extra touch.
1) Keep it simple
On the whole, try to avoid coating your pasta in loads of sauce. Jarred tomato passata poured over pasta completely ruins it for me. Why not slowly cook down a pan of cherry tomatoes with olive oil and crushed garlic until they breakdown into a delicious sauce? Add some fresh basil, salt, pepper and a sprinkle with parmesan at the end.
2) What pasta to use?
Dry or fresh? There’s no right or wrong answer here! You can make totally delicious dishes with dried pasta. Heartier ragu’s tend to work better with dry pasta, while more delicate sauces taste better with fresh. I tend to eat dried pasta the majority of the time, it’s incredibly convenient, has a long shelf life and is much cheaper. My favourite brand to use is De Cecco!
There are plenty of shapes to choose from and certain shapes will work better with certain sauces. If you can, try some of the more unusual types such as the southern Italian Orecchiette or the rice look-alike Orzo (brilliant with green pesto).
3) Cooking a basic sauce
I generally make my pasta sauce in a large frying pan (separate from the pasta pot). I typically add a tablespoon of olive oil, a finely chopped clove of garlic and some onions. I turn the heat up for a bit to brown the onions and then turn it back down to allow them to caramelise and cook more slowly.
I then might add some pancetta for a carbonara or anchovies, sliced black olives and capers for a puttanesca. If you’re making a traditional bolognese you need to allow a couple of hours to make the real deal!
4) Cooking the pasta
You need a large pan of boiling water with a generous pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for a minute under the recommended time. The Italians call this al dente (to the tooth) - you want your pasta to still have a bite to it and not be sloppy! Once your pasta is ready, drain the water, but make sure to reserve some of it in a bowl.
5) Before serving
Add your al dente pasta to the frying pan with the sauce in and stir together. Over a medium heat, add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water and maybe a small knob of butter. Stir together and after a couple of minutes it will begin to come together. Then… Taste! Salt? Pepper? Parmesan? Serve!
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