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Marcella Hazan’s Pasta Cheat Sheet

Marcella Hazan

Legendary cookbook writer Marcella Hazan. Photo courtesy of Marcella Hazan. Taken from Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (Gotham Books).

When we analyzed our website’s data to find out which 10 foods are searched for the most, there were a few surprises—like quinoa. One that wasn’t a surprise: pasta. And if there’s one person who first helped Americans learn the right way to cook pasta, it was the legendary cookbook writer Marcella Hazan.

In honor of Hazan (a longtime F&W contributor), who passed away in September, here are some of her most useful pasta cooking tips, picked from her six cookbooks.

  1. On the pot: “Use a lightweight pot that will transmit heat quickly and be easy to handle when full of pasta and boiling water.”
  2. On timing: “Start cooking the pasta when everything else is done. Cooked pasta must not wait. Never stop the cooking before it is done. Cook from beginning to end without interruption.”
  3. On doneness: “Al dente means firm to the bite, but not undercooked. In the mouth, pasta should feel chewy, but not rigid.”
  4. On tossing: “Do not serve pasta with a pool of sauce resting on top, no matter how pretty it may look. Toss the pasta with sauce immediately after draining it. It is only with thorough tossing that you achieve a satisfactory fusion of pasta and sauce. No other step is more important.”
  5. On finishing: “If the sauce was made with olive oil, drizzle a little raw oil over the pasta when tossing it. If the sauce was made with butter, add a pat of butter, letting it melt in the pasta while you toss. If the dish calls for grated cheese, add it while tossing the pasta.”
  6. On serving: “Once the pasta is sauced, serve it promptly. The point to remember is that from the moment the pasta is done, there should be no pauses in the sequence of draining, saucing, serving and eating. Cooked, hot pasta must not be allowed to sit, or it will turn into a clammy, gluey mess.”

Related: Twitter Tributes for Marcella Hazan
Mario Batali: 3 Crimes Against Pasta
Recipes from Marcella Hazan

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