Food & Recipes

Pasta 101: 10 Priceless Tips from Pasta Masters

by Rachael Ray Show Staff 9:00 AM, August 31, 2015

Aired August 31, 2015

by Lisa Lozano

On today’s show, pasta experts and chefs Mario Batali, Fabio Viviani, Lidia Bastianich and of course, our own Rachael Ray, are breaking down their favorite tips for getting perfect pasta every time.

No. 1: Cook Your Pasta to 'Al Dente'

Cook your pasta to “al dente.’ Most home cooks already know this, but it bears repeating. “Al dente,” which means “with a bite” in Italian, pasta is still firm and not floppy. There is not much that is less appetizing than limp, soggy pasta!

No. 2: Salt Your Water

The only chance you get to flavor the inside of your pasta is while it’s cooking. So be sure to be generous with the salt – Rachael advises that your cooking water should taste like seawater.

No. 3: Always Reserve a Bit of Starchy Cooking Water

Right before you’re ready to drain your pasta, always be sure to reserve a cup of the starchy water it cooked in. Add this when you toss your drained pasta with sauce – it will be the binding that “marries” the sauce to the pasta.

RELATED: 8 Magnificent Spaghetti Recipes You’re Going to Want to Make Immediately

No. 4: Finish Cooking Your Pasta in Your Sauce to Give it More Flavor

Another way to flavor your pasta is to finish it in its sauce. In today’s episode, Rachael finishes her spaghetti in a wine-based sauce, which enables the flavor of the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta. You can do this with any liquid-y sauce.

No. 5: Add Fat to Pasta after Cooking

Rach says that adding a little bit of fat in the form of butter or olive oil after it’s been cooked allows the flavor to hang out on your tongue longer when you eat it. Sounds good to us!

No. 6: Use Leftover Pasta Water for Broth or Stock

Fabio says – don’t throw out your pasta water! It makes an excellent addition to stock with its creamy starchy texture.

Related: Fabio Viviani's Lasagna Bolognese

No. 7: You Can Make Pasta at Home – Even Without Special Pasta-Making Equipment

Fabio makes a quick egg noodle dough in two minutes in a food processor (though you can certainly do this by hand), then demonstrates an amazing old world technique for forming the pasta. Just roll your pasta into strips, then cut into little nuggets. Then, simply press your thumb down, forming them into a “ear” shape. How fun would that be to make with kids?

No. 8: Don’t Cook Pesto

Who knew this one? Pesto is not meant to be cooked – simply toss it with your warm pasta and some olive oil.

No. 9: Divide Your Sauce

Before you toss your pasta with sauce, set some sauce aside. Then, after plating the meal, add a spoonful of pasta to the top to garnish.

No. 10: Don’t Toss the Cheese Rind

What would pasta be without freshly grated cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano? When you get to the end of your cheese and there’s nothing but rind left, don’t throw it out! Save it in your freezer and use it to flavor a soup or stew.

Do you have any special tricks for making pasta? Share below, and watch Fabio make his pasta dough below: