Get Saucy! : How to Properly Sauce & Serve Pasta
Some of the most memorable American imagery and cinema showcase the classic Italian dish of spaghetti and sauce as a mound of plain, undressed cooked pasta noodles mounded high on a dish, then topped with a ladleful of red tomato sauce. Though this is very iconic of American Italian cuisine, a dish of pasta served in this manner in Italy would be disaster.
In authentic Italian cuisine, the pasta sauce is always incorporated into the pasta before serving. And furthermore, the amount of sauce used is just enough to coat the pasta.
Tip #1: Have your sauce completed by the time you add the pasta to the boiling salted water. Keep the sauce on a low simmer until the pasta is ready. Your pasta shouldn’t wait for your sauce to cook. The sauce should be awaiting the pasta.
Tip #2: Moderation is everything. Two to three tablespoons of an oil-based sauce, and at most a quarter cup of rich and thick sauce such as tomato based sauce or rich meat sauce per person is perfect. Authentic Italian pasta dishes do not swim in sauce. (Ratio: 1.5 cups sauce to 1 pound pasta or 1 cup oil-based sauce to 1 pound pasta.)
Tip #3: As you drain the pasta, reserve some of the pasta water. Loosely drain the pasta, keeping the pasta moist. Never rinse the pasta.Turn your saucepan to high. Drop the drained hot pasta into the saucepan and toss to coat evenly. Hot pasta will absorb more sauce and flavor.
Tip #4: Turning the heat on the pan will allow the hot sauce and hot pasta to cook for a couple brief minutes together to incorporate their flavors and create a beautiful texture. The starches from the pasta will slightly thicken the sauce. This is why it is suggested to cook your pasta just a tad more than al dente… it will continue cooking for a moment in the saucepan.
Tip #5: Add a couple tablespoons at a time of the reserved hot pasta water to the pan to smooth out the sauce. Reserved pasta water contains starch that can be used to adjust the consistency of your sauce, from thickening it to thinning it.
Tip #6: In total, you want to only cook your pasta and sauce together on the stove for about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer your pasta to a warm serving bowl.