For Golden Crust On Baked Pasta, Use Your Broiler

One of the greatest joys in cooking is achieving the perfect harmony of flavor, texture, and a golden-brown, caramelized appearance. For pasta enthusiasts, that alluring sight occurs when a beautifully baked pasta dish is pulled from the oven. However, if you are unsure how to accomplish a perfectly crisp, browned crust of cheese on top of your favorite baked pasta recipe, you should be making better use of your oven. 

Achieving this optimal browning for your baked pasta requires a two-step process. First, cook the pasta in the oven until it's nearly done. But the golden tip? To ensure the top of your pasta has a uniform, enticing crust, finish it off under the broiler.

The secret behind what makes the cheesy, browned topping so good is called the Maillard reaction. This reaction refers to a complex series of chemical reactions between amino acids and sugars when heat is applied. Ultimately, this gives food its complex, savory flavors and beautiful color.

How to properly use your broiler

Why the broiler? This high-intensity cooking method delivers a quick and direct heat source from above. It focuses on the dish's surface, creating a tantalizing crust while maintaining a moist and tender interior. If you let the pasta cook until it browns in the oven, the rest of the dish may overcook and become dry and tough. Therefore, you can avoid chewy pasta by making the most of the broiler.

Any time you use the broiler, you want to try to avoid making common mistakes. However, the primary concern with using it for this purpose is that its intense heat can cause food to brown very quickly. After you cut the oven off and turn the broiler on, keep an eye on your food while it sits under the heat source. Cheese only takes a few minutes to turn from golden brown and delicious to burnt under these cooking conditions.

Creating golden-brown baked pasta is an art that might take a few tries, but once you bite into that perfectly browned crust and savor the creamy pasta beneath, you'll know that all your efforts were well worth it.