Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Chef's secret to pasta perfecto

  • Story Highlights
  • New York restaurateur Donatella Arpaia shares pasta tips
  • Always use 100 percent durum-wheat pasta
  • Don't over-sauce pasta, use just enough to coat each strand

  • Next Article in Living »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

( -- New York City restaurateur Donatella Arpaia shows how to cook flawless pasta, how to pair it with the ideal sauce, and even the secret to boiling water (yes, there's a right way!)

Donatella Arpaia gives her bucatini the taste test.

Pasta 101

• Always buy 100 percent durum-wheat pasta made in Italy (De Cecco is a good supermarket brand).

• Cook pasta in a two gallon stockpot. Bring water (a gallon for every pound) to a rolling boil, then add two tablespoons of salt per gallon. Never add oil, which prevents sauce from adhering to pasta. When water returns to a boil, add pasta. Stir often to prevent sticking.

• A minute before the package time indicates, take out a piece of pasta and bite it. As soon as it's a uniform, translucent color, drain (but never rinse), add sauce and serve.

Sauce secrets

• Marry the sauce to its pasta: When pasta is just shy of done, add it to the pan of sauce. Toss over high heat for 2 minutes (add a little reserved pasta water if sauce is too thick).

• If you are using cheese in your dish, mix in a couple tablespoons with drained pasta first; it makes the pasta stickier so sauce clings to it.

• Don't over-sauce pasta. Use it as a condiment, with just enough to cover each strand.

• Use the right pasta shapes: Flat (like fettucine) with creamy sauces; long, thin (spaghetti, linguine) with seafood sauces; holes or ridges (rigatoni) or molded (farfalle) with chunky sauces; very thin (angel hair) with light sauces; thick and tubular (ziti) for baked dishes.


Arpaia gives the secrets to making pasta at home taste as delicious as at her restaurants:

1. Fresh rosemary smells great and is handy to snip into a dish.

2. Present pasta beautifully in a ceramic bowl.

3. Add Italian sea-salt tablet to boiling water.

4. A must: sleek stainless spaghetti tongs that effortlessly hold pasta.

5. Arpaia's easy pasta enhancements: arrabiata sauce, black truffle oil and anchovy oil.

6. Opt for handcrafted pasta.


Bucatini with Shrimp


4 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup white wine

2 cans (35 oz. each)

San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish

1 lb. cooked bucatini

2 cups fresh buffalo ricotta (or substitute regular ricotta)


1. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.

2. Cook shrimp about 3 minutes or until partially cooked through. Remove shrimp from skillet; set aside.

3. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes or until softened. Add wine.

4. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Return shrimp to skillet; add basil and continue simmering for 5 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over hot pasta. Dollop with ricotta and garnish with basil leaves if desired. Serves 8.

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe


1-1/2 lb. broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1 lb. orecchiette

1/2 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, chopped

5 anchovy fillets, mashed (optional)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

2 tsp salt

Shaved Parmesan


1. In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook broccoli rabe for 3 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove from water; drain well.

2. Return water to boil; add pasta and cook according to package directions; reserve 1 cup water; drain well.

3. In large skillet heat oil over medium heat and cook garlic until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in anchovies, if using, and pepper flakes.

4. Add broccoli rabe, pasta and reserved water; cook until heated through and liquid has been reduced.

5. Stir in almonds. Season with salt. Garnish with Parmesan. Serves 8. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend


Get a FREE TRIAL issue of InStyle - CLICK HERE!

Copyright © 2009 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print