If I'm going to take pasta-cooking advice from anyone, it's Giada De Laurentiis. Sure, the way she pronounces "spaghetti" might drive you a little crazy (it is the proper Italian way, after all), but there's no denying she knows how to cook it perfectly. Here are eight simple ways to upgrade your pasta, according to the Food Network icon herself.
- Always season your pot of boiling water with salt before adding the pasta.
This step is imperative to getting the most flavorful pasta. Giada's main piece of cooking advice in our 2011 interview with her was to always add enough salt.
- Save a cup of pasta water every time.
Every good Italian cook knows that salty, starchy pasta water (aka the water that's left after the pasta is cooked) is the secret to a great sauce. Giada told Bon Appetit, "My grandfather taught me about pasta water and how important it is to creating a sauce. The trick is to never drain all the pasta into the sink. You hold onto the pasta water because it has starch in it. Then, use a spider to take the pasta out of the pot and throw it in a skillet. As you toss the pasta, see if it's getting dry. If it is, add half a ladle of pasta water to the mix — it adds extra creaminess without any cream whatsoever."
- Use leftover spaghetti for breakfast.
Calling it pizza di spaghetti, Giada's recipe proves you can have pasta for breakfast by using up leftover spaghetti in a crispy, pancake-like spaghetti dish that crisps up in a skillet with olive oil.
- Try spaghetti with melted chocolate.
Yep, really. Giada has said that her favorite childhood meal was spaghetti with melted chocolate. She said, "Once in a blue moon, I'll still have it. I made it for my daughter recently, but she didn't like it. She thinks it's slimy and gross. I guess it's not for everyone?" Don't knock it till you try it, I guess.
- Incorporate sweetness into rich cheese sauces.
An easy way to lighten up a rich cheese sauce and cut through some of the fat is to add a fresh, sweet component. Here, Giada previewed a pasta dish with taleggio cheese and pear.
- To give homemade pasta a fun red color, add beet juice.
Giada makes a naturally colored beet tortellini for her restaurant in Vegas.
- Season each layer of lasagna to avoid blandness.
Guilty of making lasagna taste like a flavorless casserole of mush? Giada says it's the Italian dish that's ruined way too often because people don't properly season each layer as they go. "A lot of the time, it's watery, drenched in red sauce, and filled with ricotta that doesn't have any flavor to it."
- Always make sure to try one noodle before draining the pot to make sure your pasta perfectly cooked.
If you watch Giada's cooking shows, you know she always does this before bringing the pot of pasta to the sink to drain it. Use a fork to grab one or two pieces of pasta and taste it to make sure it's perfectly al dente (usually one minute under the recommended cooking time) to make sure it's ready to serve.