Making pasta (especially from scratch) is often a hit or miss. We can overcook it, undercook it, make it taste too eggy, too starchy or too bland. There are about a million and one potential outcomes–it’s no surprise that people tend to find it intimidating. But whether you’re interested in making pasta yourself or if you’d just like to make store-bought pasta taste better, there are a couple things you could do that’ll upgrade your pasta-making abilities.
Vanessa Gianfrancesco, a host from One World Kitchen (Season 2 premieres Monday, Nov. 14 at 10:30 p.m. ET), let us in on some of her most treasured tricks to make a perfect batch of pasta. And sure enough, her tips do not disappoint.
1. Boiling the water–you’re doing it wrong
You may already be familiar with this rule, but it’s one of the most important tricks that can make or break a pasta dish: always salt your water.
“No pasta will taste good unless it’s salted first,” said Gianfrancesco. So sprinkle in a generous spoonful of salt to help boost the flavour of your pasta as it cooks.
You also want to get a nice rolling boil before putting your pasta into the pot, then reduce the heat once the pasta’s in. The movement from boiling to simmering is crucial for pasta to cook enough so it doesn’t stick together, without allowing the water to bubble out of the pot.
2. Making pasta dough is an exact science
Cooking pasta from scratch isn’t an impossible feat. In fact, if you follow the exact measurements of ingredients in a recipe, you’re bound to end up with something decent. But because the outcome of your noodles rely heavily on the ingredient ratio, it’s important to measure and weigh your ingredients instead of guesstimating each amount.
Also, always use room temperature eggs when making your own pasta. Not cold. Not warm. This is because the yolk spreads more easily, helping the egg bind to the other ingredients and produce a lighter texture. See? Cooking isn’t always about talent–sometimes it’s more about following existing instructions.
3. Use ’00’ flour
You don’t want any of that all-purpose or cake and pastry flour right now. If you’re looking to reproduce that light, fluffy pasta texture (which is basically the definition of good pasta), use 00 flour. Don’t worry, we hadn’t heard of that type of flour until now either. But ’00’ flour is what you have to use to make good Italian pasta.
“You really see the end result when you’re cooking your pasta because it’s light in texture,” said Gianfrancesco. Grocery store, here we come.
4. Experiment with filling
So you’re already a noodle expert? Great. But there’s still one thing you probably haven’t done: experimented with ravioli.
You can either try to perfect and replicate different ravioli fillings or just make up your own if you’re feeling particularly daring. Gianfrancesco explains how one of the most rewarding purposes of making ravioli is being able to use different inspirations around you to create the filling. In other words, ravioli-making will open you to a world of self-expression.
5. Toss your pasta in sauce
Don’t cook your pasta completely before straining it–just don’t do it.
“Strain it a minute or two before it’s completely cooked so you can put it back in with the sauce,” said Gianfrancesco. That way, the noodles will finish cooking with the sauce, taking in all the wonderful new flavours instead of getting overcooked. Plus, when you serve your guests pasta that’s already been coated in sauce (with a few wisps of Parmesan cheese), the presentation will be a heck of a lot more impressive than just a plate of noodles with a pile of sauce slopped on top.
Looks like you’re finally ready to roll up your sleeves and make a drool-worthy plate of pasta from scratch (or from the store).