Why is it that whenever you go out for pasta you’re rarely disappointed? Every bite is so tasty and delicious that sometimes we wonder why it doesn’t always turn out just the same when prepared at home. Many restaurants tend to add more salt, butter and cream than you would use on your own. But thanks to Greatist we have five secrets to making restaurant-quality pasta meals in your own kitchen that are healthy and delicious!
1. Time cooking your pasta to when the sauce is done.
You may not think letting pasta sit in the strainer while you finish up the rest of your cooking can make it less tasty but it does! Pasta that sits for even just a few minutes loses moisture resulting in a dry, tough product. Aim to mix your just drained pasta with sauce immediately and not only will your texture be better but you’ll also get a creamier tasting pasta too.
2. Drain your pasta when it’s slightly al dente.
You should aim to drain your pasta when it’s about two minutes short of the recommended cooking time. Then, toss it immediately into the sauce. This will allow the pasta to finish cooking and absorb the sauce. At the same time this helps the sauce to get thicker as starch is released from the pasta.
3. Save some pasta water.
If you’re looking to add some extra thickness to your sauce, the starchy pasta water you boiled the pasta in is your answer. Add about a half a cup of it as soon as you combine the pasta and sauce. Feel free to add more until you reach your desired consistency.
4. Wait until the end to add cheese.
While you may want to start adding cheese to the sauce while it’s cooking for an extra creamy, cheesy texture, the strong heat can make the cheese separate and cause your sauce to get oily. Instead try letting your pasta sit for at least 20 seconds on the plate before adding the cheese.
5. Stay away from dairy.
Adding tons of cream and butter is where calories add up. Try some herb and vegetable alternatives to get that same creamy texture, such as a roasted red pepper sauce, butternut squash or herbs blended with olive oil and cooked white beans or legumes. Other plant-based options include nuts like soaked, raw cashews or sunflower seeds pureed into a sauce – or avocado, another popular option for adding creaminess.