Mistake #7 Pouring the Sauce on the Pasta
On first glance, this doesn’t seem like a mistake. How many times have we cooked pasta and then poured the sauce on top of individual servings? Probably more times than we can count.
If you do this, though, what you’re serving is pasta and sauce, not a wonderful dish made when the two elements are brought together correctly.
The Fix—Finish Your Pasta Correctly
Once you have reserved a cup of pasta water, have drained your pasta and have the sauce ready, here is a great way to marry the pasta with the sauce. I am not telling you that this is the only way, but it is tried and true, and it is the method that I use.
- Put the drained pasta back in cooking pot.
- Ladle in about ½-3/4 cup of sauce per serving.
- Add about half of the reserved cooking water to the pot.
- Over high heat, stir gently but constantly as the sauce boils and the starchy water reduces so that the sauce regains its original consistency. This should only take about one minute.
- Add a touch of fat to the pan—heavy cream, butter or olive oil would be appropriate—and continue stirring until the fat is well incorporated.
- Turn off the heat and stir in a bit of hard cheese, such as Parmesan or Romano.
Why this works:
The starch on the noodles along with the starch in the cooking water help to thicken the sauce and make it adhere to the pasta. The stirring action coupled with boiling help to emulsify the fat, lending a creaminess and silky mouthfeel to your sauce.
The cheese adds a nutty note, a little salt, and a bit of depth to the sauce. The result is that each noodle bears a thin, creamy coating of sauce.