Fat also brings flavor of its own, as well as helping fat-soluble flavor compounds in the sauce reach your tongue. His first book, You see, this isn't the kind of Italian restaurant where one would go to order grappa. The hotter your pan, the more vigorously the sauce will bubble, and the better the emulsion you'll form. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy. Check out the video above to see exactly how this magic on a plate happens. All you need in order to plate the perfect portion-controlled plate of pasta is a little old meat fork. ** If you've done everything right, that shouldn't be a problem. This is the most vital step in the process. The sauce will start to cool down and thicken. If your pasta has a chalky or brittle core, it's undercooked. Yup, you read that right. Simmering not only reduces liquid (and thereby thickens the sauce), but also contributes to mechanical stirring, helping that starchy pasta water do its job of emulsifying the sauce with the fat and getting it to coat the pasta. These days, it seems like we have the opposite problem: Folks are so scared to overcook pasta that most of the time, it's undercooked. Spaghetti can get a little messy, and I often serve large rigatoni vs. noodles so the staining of clothing is kept to a minimum, but whatever your preference is will work. With small shapes, like penne or fusilli, I use a saucepan or a saucier. Add Pasta Water. Because your food should look as good as it tastes. Some comments may be held for manual review. No matter what sauce you're making—whether it's a chunky marinara, a rich and hearty ragù Bolognese, or a simple carbonara—it should acquire a creamy texture that clings to the noodles. If you have a very low-fat sauce (like a tomato sauce, for instance), now is the time to add extra fat. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest recipes and tips! Comments can take a minute to appear—please be patient! Once the pasta is in the sauce, add pasta water. Cooking pasta in the sauce instead of in boiling water will increase the amount of time it takes to cook through. Don't be afraid of it! Let it go longer! The easiest is to grab a set of tongs for long, skinny pasta, or a metal spider to fish out short pasta shapes, and transfer them directly to the pan with the warm sauce. The one thing I don't like about them? Making sure that all of your serving plates are hot is key to great pasta texture: What looked perfect in the pan will seize up and turn overly thick if you dump it into a cold bowl. Without fat, you have at best watery sauce (nobody has ever said, "Waiter, my pasta is not quite wet enough"), and at worst sauce that over-thickens with starch alone and takes on a pasty texture. Kenji's next project is a children’s book called Every Night is Pizza Night, to be released in 2020, followed by another big cookbook in 2021. These can be anything from chopped fresh herbs to grated cheese to a big grind of black pepper. (And you'll probably need to: The cheese has thickened up the sauce a bit, the pasta has continued to absorb water from the sauce, and some of that water will have evaporated.) The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science (based on his Serious Eats column of the same name) is a New York Times best-seller, recipient of a James Beard Award, and was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Remember: You do not want your pasta water as salty as the sea. Finally, whatever you do, don't toss cooked pasta with oil—it makes it much more difficult to get sauce to cling to it down the line. Finishing pasta, you'll notice, is a game of constant adjustments. That’s why our minds have been blown by this simple trick. It's the kind of Italian restaurant I imagine Billy Joel crooning about. All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. Aren't you getting pasta and sauce on your plate anyway? You don't want your cooked pasta to heat up in a cold pan of sauce, slowly absorbing more water and becoming mushy. In a separate pot, bring a couple of quarts of salted water to a boil. Learn more on our Terms of Use page. Pasta don't wait around for nobody. There are a couple of ways to get your pasta from the pan to the sauce. You also don't need a huge amount of water—just enough to be able to keep the pasta moving. Pasta water gets added throughout the process in order to adjust consistency. Quick and Easy Italian-American Red Sauce in 40 Minutes or Less, Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (Dressing), Cook the Book: Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes, The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Hams, Coffee Science: How to Make the Best Pourover Coffee at Home, The Ultimate Guide to Making Ramen Noodles at Home. (Hey, we can’t help it if that’s what spaghetti actually looks like.). Conversely, even a so-so, store-bought, jarred marinara sauce can be improved upon by finishing it off right. I like ripping off chunks of overly soft and saturated garlic bread, and the waiters who come around with the oversize pepper mill, as if it can rescue limp baby spinach (with dressing always served on the side). Fact is, no matter how great a sauce you can make, if you don't sauce your pasta correctly, you're missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. Pasta should* be cooked al dente—"to the tooth"—which means just until it's cooked through. That’s why all those fancy chefs out there spend so much time on plating: because you eat with your eyes long before the food even touches your lips. Your other option is to purposely undercook the pasta by a few minutes before adding it to the sauce to let it finish. Once the pasta is in the sauce, add pasta water. Everyone knows that half the battle when it comes to haute cuisine is getting your plate to look just so. "Almost two years now," she said. You're just about to serve the pasta, which means that now is your last chance to adjust texture. It's almost inevitably a plate with a nest of reheated noodles that have been tossed in oil to prevent them from sticking to each other, with a big ladleful of sauce poured over the center.