The Cheesy Pasta Trick Bobby Flay Learned From Giada De Laurentiis

Bobby Flay is a master of his trade, as evidenced by a 30-year career encompassing over a dozen cooking shows, an Iron Chef win, and successful restaurants serving a panoply of different global cuisines. However, even Flay will take a tip from colleagues on how to improve a recipe. In an exclusive interview with Food & Wine at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last year, Flay credited colleague and former Iron Chef partner Giada De Laurentiis with a dairy-filled pasta trick that'll upgrade any pasta recipe's taste, texture, and cohesion.

De Laurentiis taught Flay to sprinkle freshly cooked pasta with parmesan cheese before adding it to a simmering pan of sauce. Along with providing a salty, nutty flavor upgrade to the pasta, parmesan cheese will serve as an adhesive for the sauce. The heat of the pasta will steam and melt the cheese, cementing it to the pasta. This parmesan skin will, in turn, help the pasta retain a thorough coating of sauce.

Flay follows De Laurentiis' tip with one of his own: Add a hunk of butter to your sauce before adding the pasta. Not only will butter enrich the sauce's flavor and texture with creaminess, but it'll also help emulsify the sauce. Plus, butter will provide the fat a sauce needs to cling to your parmesan-coated pasta, especially if it's a more water-based sauce like marinara or pomodoro.

More tips to marry sauce with pasta

Butter is a well-known emulsifier, containing both water and fat soluble components. But other actions and ingredients are necessary for emulsification and to help the sauce cling to the pasta. Adding butter to your sauce a great way to blend it, but you also need agitation. Thus, stirring and simmering the sauce as you add butter will help complete the emulsification process. Ensuring your butter is cold before adding it to simmering sauce will lead to more gradual and sure emulsification.

In addition to a hunk of butter, add reserved pasta water to your sauce. The starchy water will further bolster the texture of your sauce and help it adhere to the pasta when you stir it into the sauce. Since you'll be stirring pasta into simmering sauce to combine the two ingredients, you should drain your pasta before it's done cooking. Less than al dente pasta will become the perfect al dente by the time you've stirred it into the sauce. If you don't have cold butter on hand, a raw egg is another well-known emulsifier that, like butter, will help marry your sauce and pasta. In fact, egg is the key emulsifier to combine with parmesan cheese in spaghetti carbonara.