Some may say it is impossible to get authentic pasta outside of Italy, and to a certain extent, this may be true. But with the right ingredients and a few insider tips, you can probably fool the best of them into thinking they are in the land of Cyprus trees, rolling olive tree-covered hills, and renaissance buildings.
1. Match your pasta type and to the sauce.
It can be a difficult art to learn, but the effort will go along way. While many have written great guides on the subject, you can start by remembering that a thick or chunky sauce needs something to hold on to, like ridged penne or a spirally rotini, and that this sauces work well to coat long pasta like linguini or capellini (angel hair). Pasta and it’s sauce are chosen to go together and should never be mixed and matched by guests; don’t let them ruin your culinary artistry!
2. In Italy, pasta is always served al dente.
Al dente literally means “to the tooth,” and refers to the fact that there should be some resistance (though not uncomfortably so) when you bite a piece. To achieve this texture, be vigilent when cooking. After the first five minutes of cooking dried pasta, pull out a piece every minute or two and make sure it doesn’t get too soft.
3. Always mix the sauce and pasta well before serving and serve them together.
There is something just wrong about pasta without sauce; it’s as if it were naked! Don’t be vulgar at your dinner parties – make sure your pasta is decent before it leaves your kitchen. Not only does it taste and look better, but it will prevent the pasta from sticking together.
4. Keep it hot!
Serving cool or lukewarm pasta kills a lot of the taste. I typically keep the pasta sauce on the stove and only mix it with the pasta as the last thing I do before the first course is served.
5. Don’t forget the cheese!
Unless there is some sort of fish in your pasta, you should always dust the top with cheese before serving and offer cheese on the table. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) is a common choice, but the salty Pecorino Romano is increasingly available and adds more flavor to lighter Tuscan-style sauces.