Giada De Laurentiis is an icon in the culinary world, and if you grew up even remotely interested in food, you’ve probably sat through Food Network marathons of her cooking at home serving up unique, tasty Italian dishes.
As the epicurean madness of Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d event unfolded, I had a chance to catch up with Giada at her new Pronto restaurant inside the Caesars Palace hotel and casino.
Being the queen of Italian food, there was no way I was going to let the opportunity pass to find out how she makes her pasta, and dig into her secrets to making it perfectly.
If you feel your pasta sometimes tastes a little off, or aren’t even sure what a good pasta should taste like, Giada has your back with these four tips, shared for your cooking pleasure:
Salt It Like The Ocean
If the water you boil your pasta in doesn’t taste like the Pacific Ocean, you’re salting it wrong. Giada stressed the importance of salting your water while the pasta is cooking. If you’re trying to salt it up after the fact, it’s too late. You ruined it.
“The first time you get to season the pasta, which is in the water, is what’s going to make the difference between a great pasta and a mediocre pasta. If you don’t season it with enough salt, your pasta is bland. You can add all the salt you want later on, as you’re assembling the dish together with the sauce, but it’s never going to stick to that noodle. Season it like you would the sea. It should be salty.”
Al Dente Is Your Friend
You’ve probably heard the term al dente in Barilla commericals or random Italian movies, and it really is important. Al dente means the pasta has some firmness and a particular, toothsome bite to it, and Giada explained how to get this texture right.
“To me, what I like from a pasta, is a noodle that is al dente, so you take it out of the water a little bit early, and finish it in a pan. As the noodle continues to cook in the pan, it absorbs the sauce. It should have a little bit of a bite to it.”
Pasta With Ridges
While all pastas are beautiful in their own ways, Giada let us in on a little secret, explaining that ridged pasta has a tendency to trap that flavor better than pastas with smooth surfaces.
“I like pastas with ridges, because the sauce gets stuck in the ridges. To me, that’s a better pasta.”
DO NOT THROW OUT THAT PASTA WATER
If you really want a delicious, creamy sauce that puts your pasta above others, save that pasta water after cooking. It is common to dump out your pasta and do away with the water, but keeping some on hand makes a huge difference in the final product.
“Pasta water is the key to creating the creaminess. So after you’ve cooked the pasta, you reserve a quarter, to a half cup of pasta water. The gluten and the starch in the pasta water is what allows the noodle and the sauce to adhere to each other. You just keep adding a little bit of pasta water as you’re tossing the pasta together. You gotta reserve it in advance.”
Giada’s Perfect Pasta
Giada took us through the process of making the perfect pasta, so aside from a good salting and using ridged noodles, what does the final product of her perfect pasta look like?
“Very simplistic pasta. Nothing that’s overdressed or too heavy. If you look at a pasta and you can see the noodle, it’s probably a pretty good pasta. And if every noodle is coated with sauce, you’re looking at a good pasta dish. If the sauce pulls on the bottom, it’s probably not a good pasta dish.”
So there you have it. Giada just schooled us on pasta perfection. You should never mess up your pasta again as long as you follow these tips. I mean, there’s still a good chance you’ll mess up, but don’t blame us, because we just gave you the playbook.