how to finish pasta on the stove

Today, we’re talking about improving your spaghetti endgame so that your pasta primavera tastes like it’s from the best Italian restaurant in the world. Learning how to finish pasta will help take your spaghetti dinners from good to great.

If you know how to cook, chances are you can make a plate of pasta just fine. If you love noodles, there are a few secret tips that separate your average bowl of penne with tomato sauce from a lip-smackingly delicious dish of Fresh Rigatoni with Spicy Pork Ragu.

Of course, there are tricks for cooking: use plenty of water, season adequately with salt, let it come to a roiling boil before you introduce the noodles, and then pair them with a delicious sauce. These steps are all crucial, but the most important step comes after the pasta is mostly cooked.

How to finish pasta in the pan

Here’s the trick: when the pasta is 90 percent cooked, remove it from the pot. But don’t toss the water! Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water in a little bowl or cup. That water is no longer plain old H20. Now it’s salty and starchy and a key ingredient in its own right.

For this trick to work, you need to have your pasta sauce simmering on the stove in a separate pan. Transfer the mostly cooked pasta to the pan of sauce along with a little bit of pasta water. The noodles will finish cooking in the sauce. This does two things. First, as your noodles finish cooking each morsel will absorb more flavor from the sauce. Second, the starchiness of the pasta water will help thicken the sauce so it coats each bite of pasta instead of pooling in the bottom of your bowl.

You can watch this clever tip in action in our video about cooking pasta with heirloom tomatoes

Craving a noodle dinner? Learn about pasta shapes you need to know.