Ever wondered why the pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant has a completely different flavor and texture to the one you make at home? Sure, the sauce and quality of ingredients play a big part, but apparently, it also has to do with something called “pasta water,” the excess liquid left after you drain the noodles. According to the foodies at Bon Appetit, it might as well be “liquid gold,” and pouring it down the sink is a big mistake.
“That murky liquid is filled with plenty of salt and leftover starch from those boiling noodles which, when added to whatever hot fat—olive oil, butter, pork fat, all of the above—is hanging out in the pan that you’re finishing your pasta, results in a luxuriously smooth sauce,” they explain. Here’s how to make the most of every flavorful drop in the pot.
Use a Dutch Oven
In its pasta cooking guide, Basically recommends using a big Dutch oven rather than a saucepan to combine the cooked pasta and sauce. “Higher sides mean the pasta won’t flip out as you’re tossing—and there’s going to be a lot of tossing.” Cover the bottom of the dish with olive oil, and add aromatics garlic or shallots. Cook until tender and juices have been released.
Cook the Pasta
Bring heavily salted water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta, and cook until “several minutes shy of al dente,” they recommend.
Transfer the Pasta
Transfer the cooked pasta to the Dutch oven, along with a ladle of pasta water (aka “liquid gold”). They recommend tongs, a pasta fork, and a spider strainer, which are the “the trifecta of pasta transportation technology.” Keep tossing and adding pasta water, and then incorporate grated hard cheese to create a creamy sauce. Serve straight from the Dutch oven.
What’s your secret for cooking restaurant-grade pasta?