Pasta is a beloved dish in any household. It makes for a quick, easy, and delicious meal that everyone will love. Open up any kitchen pantry and you’re bound to find boxes of the stuff. Your own pantry likely has at least one box of pasta in there right now, doesn’t it?
When it comes to pasta, there are a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. Which one you choose is partly a matter of preference and partly a matter for proper pairing. Whichever one you choose, you should cook it until it’s just al dente. That means that it’s a bit firm when you bite into it. To cook any pasta al dente, simply reduce the time you would normally cook it by a minute or two, and as always, taste! When you bite and find that perfect balance of firmness and softness, remove and drain.
Another important tip: don’t forget to salt the water when making your pasta! Adding salt flavors the pasta. You want the pasta water to be as salty as the sea! Most people tend to salt the water as they put the pot on, but the most efficient way is to add the salt when the water begins to boil, just before adding in the pasta. Pasta water is liquid gold. Not only does it help flavor the pasta, but it is also perfect to add to sauces. Pasta water is a culinary trick that every chef learns. Sauce too thin? Add some pasta water. Needs a little salt or flavor? Add pasta water. Pasta water is the all encompassing ingredient when it comes to pasta and sauce.
When it comes down to the sauce, of course you can use any one you prefer, however there is a method to the madness when it comes down to pasta shape and sauce pairing.
Long or skinny pastas like linguine or pappardelle pair best with light seafood sauces (think linguine and white clam sauce) or even cream or oil-based sauces. Penne and Twisted shapes like fusilli go best with pesto or tomato based sauces because the sauce clings to the ridges and curves of the pasta perfectly. Filled pastas like ravioli or tortellini are typically rich with flavor, so you’ll want to avoid overdoing it with the sauce. Something simple like a light butter or oil-based sauce will do just nicely.
Give your new knowledge of pasta and sauce pairing a try with this delicious Italian Carbonara recipe! Mangia!
1 Pound of dry Pasta (Linguine, Tagliatelle, Spaghetti, your favorite)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 Ounces of pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces
5 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Large eggs
1 ½ Cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Reserved pasta water, roughly 1/2 cup
- Begin by boiling water for pasta. Once it begins to boil, add a generous amount of salt. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes (no more than 10 minutes) for al dente.
- Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook for 3 minutes until it’s crisp.
- Toss garlic into pan and sauté for about 1-2 minutes.
- Drain pasta, making sure to reserve the pasta water for later. Toss pasta into the skillet and coat with the bacon and garlic.
- Quickly beat eggs and cheese together in a bowl, whisking vigorously to reduce lumps. Take the skillet off the heat and pour the egg mixture onto the pasta. Stir quickly off the residual heat, cooking the eggs but not scrambling them.
- Add a little pasta water at a time and keep mixing until it arrives at the consistency you desire.
- Season with freshly ground pepper, and once you portion out the servings, top with more cheese and garnish with parsley!