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5 Tips to Master Fresh Pasta

Coperta's Paul C. Reilly shares how to make delicious noodles every time
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Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table

Denver-based chef Paul C. Reilly considers pasta to be his comfort food—so much so that he just opened a Southern Italian-inflected restaurant, Coperta, in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood.

At any time, Reilly plans to have nine to 11 fresh, dried and extruded pastas on the menu (which will always include the Roman trilogy of amatriciana, carbonara and especially of-the-moment cacio e pepe).

Reilly recently stopped by our Test Kitchen to make his monkfish ragù (see the recipe), and while he was here, he shared some tips for making fresh pasta less painless.

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Know your sauce. “It’s pretty easy to find what pasta shape goes with which noodle; a Bolognese would go with an egg dough with no problem, but pesto isn’t really built for that,” Reilly says. “Make sure the pasta you’re taking the time to make is a good match for your sauce.”

② Flour is your friend. Don’t be afraid to add more flour if your dough isn’t firming up. “If your dough is sticky, your life is going to be miserable. I go by the ‘rule of thumb’: If your thumb doesn’t stick to the dough when you knead it, you’re good to go.”

③ Take your time rolling. “Pasta is malleable and will do whatever you need it to do,” Reilly says. While most Americans think of pasta as a convenience food, making it from scratch is more of a commitment. “Don’t rush it.”

④ Put the olive oil away. Reilly isn’t a fan of adding olive oil to the cooking water. “That’s an old wives’ tale,” he says. “Don’t waste your beautiful, expensive olive oil in boiling water. It’s just going to go down the drain.”

⑤ Real cheese, please. Don’t go with imitation Parm—the authentic Italian stuff is worth the money. “Buy a nice Parmigiano-Reggiano,” Reilly says. “It’s not going to go bad, and you’re going to get so much more taste and utilization out of it.”

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