After spending a week in Rome last December, star chef Andrew Zimmern got reattached to classic Roman dishes. Here, his tips for perfect pasta.

By Andrew Zimmern
Updated May 23, 2017

After spending a week in Rome last December, star chef Andrew Zimmern got reattached to two classic Roman dishes, rigatoni carbonara and tripe a la Romana (wait for that recipe next month). Here, his tips for perfect pasta.

Everyone loves a good noodle. It’s a quick, easy and economical way to eat. It can also be as elegant as you care to make it, and it is universally beloved in every country I can think of. These are some fun tips to keep in mind next time you are making your favorite pasta dish.

Setup. Cook pasta in a large volume of rapidly boiling salted water; it should taste like seawater! I use five quarts to boil a pound of dried pasta. The reason I like this volume even for smaller pasta amounts is that it comes back to a boil faster and makes cooking large pieces like spaghetti noodles easier because they are completely submerged.

Stir, and stir soon. So your pasta goes into your large volume of salted boiling water. Immediately, those little starches on the exterior of the pasta swell with water. When those starches burst, the pasta becomes sticky. Now, as you cook, the starches will be absorbed into the cooking water they essentially wash away and the noodle cooks uniformly. But—and it’s a big one—during those first few minutes is when that sticky glue is being produced, so that’s when you need to stir it! If you don’t, the pasta pieces can stick together, and you can end up with a big mess on your hands.

Oil boil? You don’t need oil in the water; that can actually prevent your pasta from cooking properly, alter the flavor and is a bit of a wives’ tale. Some chefs use oil to prevent starchy boil-overs. I use a large pot and simply turn the heat down a notch so I am cooking appropriately without the oil-slick tricks.

Get Andrew Zimmern's supereasy recipe for Pasta Carbonara