The Key To Getting Your Sauce To Stick To Your Pasta

Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to sauce your pasta if you want that sauce to cling to those noodles. According to Giada De Laurentiis, that all starts with the water you're boiling. In her Do's and Dont's of Cooking Pasta video, De Laurentiis explains you want to add salt to your water because that's the first step to adding flavor to your pasta dish. However, the celebrity chef cautions that you do not want to add oil of any kind to the water because it will prevent your pasta from getting super starchy, which is critical for making your sauce stick. But that's just the beginning of your pasta saucing journey.

The next step for saucing is equally as important. Per a Serious Eats post, food writer J. Kenji López-Alt. recommends cooking your pasta until it is al dente, but he concedes you should cook it to your preferred softness. And while your pasta is cooking, López-Alt suggests warming your sauce because you should toss your noodles with hot pasta sauce. If you choose to add undercooked pasta to your pasta sauce and allow it to finish cooking in the sauce, López-Alt notes this will take more time, so plan accordingly. Then he offers an important trick for getting your sauce to stick to your pasta. 

Pasta water is key

In his Serious Eats article, J. Kenji López-Alt says if you are going to allow your pasta to finish cooking in your pasta sauce, you'll want to thin the sauce with some pasta water. Pasta water is the real key to getting your sauce to stick to your pasta. And Serious Eats isn't alone; McCormick also supports this trick as the secret behind well-coated pasta. Once you put your noodles into your pasta sauce, you are going to want to add a little pasta water to get your pasta sauce to your desired consistency. López-Alt further explains that this starchy water is going to help the surface of your pasta noodles become the right texture and will encourage your sauce to cling to the pasta.

Sounds like perfection. But what about using a jar of pasta sauce from the grocery store? Giada De Laurentiis told Bon Appétit it's okay to use store-bought sauce in a jar. She said, "If it makes your life easier and it means you're actually going to make a dish, then go for it. Just make sure the first ingredient is tomatoes and not sugar."