Giada De Laurentiis' Tip For Perfecting Cheesy Pasta Dishes - Exclusive

Our perpetual and pervasive love affair with cheesy pasta needs no explanation. While it comes in many forms — from macaroni and cheese to spaghetti carbonara, ricotta gnocchi to broccoli cheddar shells, not to mention a hearty slab of fresh baked lasagna, oozing with cheesy bechamel sauce — at its heart, it's simply pasta and cheese. And it always hits the spot.

Cheesy pasta's widespread appeal, outside of the all-around comfort factor, is its versatility. You can pair just about any melty cheese you love with your preferred pasta noodle and you don't really need much else. Of course, we're not suggesting you settle with the first box of penne and pack of shredded cheddar you see at the store. If you're gonna indulge, you've gotta do it right.

And when it comes to cheese and pasta, two beloved Italian specialties, why not take your cue from an Italian chef. We spoke to culinary TV icon Giada De Laurentiis for some help thinking outside the box (of mac and cheese, that is) for your next plate of cheesy gratification. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, De Laurentiis shared what her favorite cheesy pastas are when she's in need of some creamy comfort food and passed along her tips for perfecting any cheesy pasta dish you love.

Pecorino makes for the perfect cheesy pasta for Giada De Laurentiis

Even when something as simple as a cheesy pasta craving hits, De Laurentiis keeps it classy and stays true to her Italian roots. "Pecorino Tartufo and cacio e pepe are my favorite dishes," the chef told Tasting Table, and both feature a version of Rome's signature cheese. Tartufo means "truffle" in Italian and Pecorino tartufo pasta features a truffled Pecorino cheese. You might add pasta water, butter, or cream to lean into the indulgence factor in this dish and finish it off with a splash of truffle oil or, better yet, freshly shaved truffle.

This dish's slightly simpler yet no less delicious relative is the well-known menu staple cacio e pepe. It's traditionally made with nothing more than freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, lots of fresh cracked black pepper, and a splash of pasta water to thicken the sauce.

Cheesy pasta calls for minimum steps done right

These two dishes have one thing in common: They don't hide behind a bunch of added ingredients and extra seasonings, herbs, and more. They highlight a few exceptionally tasty components that are orchestrated perfectly, which is why De Laurentiis' first tip for making cheesy pasta dishes is "always use quality ingredients." The flavor of the cheese and the flavor of the pasta itself are all that matters here. With such a small shopping list, this is the time and place to splurge on an artisan box of small-batch noodles and the good stuff from the cheese counter. If nothing else, opt for freshly cracked pepper over a sprinkle of ground table pepper.

These cheesy pasta dishes are as simple as De Laurentiis' other tip for making them, which is, "Give yourself plenty of time and space while cooking." More specifically, be mindful of the step-by-step process involved in achieving the ideal thick and creamy texture for your pasta — from freshly grating the cheese to prepping your pasta water to mastering the mantecare — and don't rush the results. And finally, remember this is not a one-pot meal. In terms of space, make sure you've got a clear counter to work with and room on your stove for at least two large saucepans.