At restaurants, those noodles get coated in a silky, glossy sauce—the secret is an emulsion of fat, pasta water, and cheese.
Here are the 5 key steps to replicating that at home.
There’s something about pasta at a restaurant that just seems different. The sauce clings to each noodle perfectly, as if separation were physically impossible. That alfredo or carbonara is so sublimely smooth that it could never be replicated at home, right? Wrong. Here’s how to make pasta at home that is every bit as saucy and glossy as it is at your neighborhood trattoria. Get out your Dutch oven (or sauce pan or large skillet), and follow these 5 easy steps to at-home pasta perfection.
1. Start in a Dutch Oven
A big one, so you avoid half-cooked pasta caking onto your stovetop, which can happen easily when saucing with a skillet. Higher sides mean the pasta won’t flip out as you’re tossing—and there’s going to be a lot of tossing.
2. Build Your Flavors
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the Dutch oven (enough to cover the bottom) and heat over medium. Add some aromatics like garlic or shallots, then cook mushrooms or other veg in the oil until they’re tender.
3. Drop the Pasta
In a pot of very salty boiling water, cook noodles until they’re several minutes shy of al dente. Transfer them to whatever you’ve got in the Dutch oven, along with a ladleful of pasta water. The noodles should swim, and the liquid should be bubbling.
4. Marry the Noodles and Sauce
Toss, toss, toss as the pasta finishes cooking. Then add a bit more pasta water. Toss some more, then slowly stir in some finely grated hard cheese—Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano—little by little so it melts evenly and completely.
5. Finish It Right
Keep tossing until each strand or shape is coated and no bits of cheese remain. Remove from heat, stir in a spoonful of butter, and top with more cheese and some crispy bits (prosciutto FTW), then serve directly out of the Dutch oven at the table.