Instantly access the Pasta Cheat Sheet PDF!
Get my 5 best pasta recipes all on one page.
Absolutely free. Enjoy!
Pasta sauce ingredients are very much seasonal. Here I provide my best pasta recipes for each season: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Be inspired to recreate these sure-to-impress dishes. This list has 5 proven-delicious sauces. View the PDF HERE. Easy to follow step by step cooking and finishing tips! Pasta recipes are mildly abbreviated to fit them on one page. Looking for simple tomato sauce? it’s down below! Enjoy!
Yes! Instantly access the Pasta Cheat Sheet PDF!
Bonus #1: How to cook excellent pasta: In 10 steps + 1 secret tip.
- Bring your largest pot of water up to a roaring boil.
- Liberally salt the water after the water boils. Aim for very salty sea water. Once boiling, add 1 tsp per 1 quart of water. (Salted water will come to boil slower). You do not want to add oil to the water as this wasteful and prevents the sauce from sticking later on.
- Drop your dried or fresh pasta in. Keep the water boiling the whole time.
- Set a timer for the minimum cooking time listed, less 1 minute. This saves you. Sometime the thinner spaghetti and linguine are done 2 minutes before their required cook times.
- Stir pasta from the bottom occasionally.
- Check the pasta about 1 minute before the timer sounds.
- How to taste test: spoon out a noddle, run under cold water, and taste for doneness. Don’t burn your mouth. The pasta should be Al Dente meaning “to the tooth” and give a small bite when chewed.
- Save some of the starchy pasta water. Then strain pasta just before it has finished cooking. Never wash the pasta under water, you wouldn’t want to remove it’s starchy coating.
- Add the semi-cooked pasta to the sauce. The last minute of cooking is for the pasta to cook in the sauce. The noodles will absorb flavor from the sauce and elevate the flavor of the pasta. [Video below]
- Add a little starchy pasta water to the sauce. (May also add more to thin the sauce if needed).
- The secret step. Add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to your sauce. Stir it in vigorously to create an emulsion with the starchy pasta water and oil. This is the secret to saucing pasta and properly coating the macaroni. [Video below]
The quality of the pasta is also important. When purchasing Italian pasta, look for pasta that is 100% Durham Semolina. You’ll often see many varieties in American markets that are not that traditional pasta. I use the De Cecco brand pasta. De Cecco uses bronze dies to process their pasta; and by forcing it through small molds, it gives the pasta a rougher texture to grab onto the sauce (gravy). Ask an Italian family living in Italy what they grew up on, and it’s likely De Cecco dried pasta or grandma’s fresh pasta. Until you’ve tried bronze dye pasta, you’re missing out on a textural component. This pasta will almost chew like a meal if you cook it Al Dente. Here are the links to my favorite four shapes.
De Cecco Pasta, Rigatoni, 16 Ounce (Pack of 5)
De Cecco Pasta, Orecchiette, 16 Ounce (Pack of 5)
De Cecco Pasta, Farfalle, 16 Ounce (Pack of 5)
De Cecco Pasta, Linguine, 16 Ounce (Pack of 5)
Traditional Tomato Sauce (10 mins)
This sauce has received numerous compliments over the years. My tomato sauce recipe shows my style of cooking very well: simple and fast. I never buy a jar of pre-made sauce. Tomato sauce is quick to make and tastes so much better homemade. This sauce only takes 10 minutes to make. Use your largest frying pan for more surface area.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- half a small red onion, minced finely so it cooks faster
Fry on high heat for 2 min.
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- ½ tsp hot red pepper flakes
Fry on high heat for 1 min. These ingredients are more sensitive to burning, so they are added after.
- Add 1 28oz canned peeled cherry tomatoes; Try 🍅 Cento Cherry Tomatoes
- Add 1 medium/small extra-ripe vine-ripened-tomato, minced small
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
It’s important to add the tomatoes while the pan is still on high heat, this will fry a small portion of the tomatoes and flavor the oil. Once the tomatoes are in, lower temperate to medium. A good tip is to add the tomatoes if anything is burning, this will reduce the temperature of the pan from oil frying at 300+ degrees to tomatoes boiling at 212 degrees.
Next, crush half of the cherry tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cook the sauce for 7 minutes. The combination of a fresh tomato with the canned tomatoes will remove any tin taste. Sometimes I even partially blend the canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes together to avoid chopping, then add directly to the pan. This is what I have done in the above picture.
I prefer this sauce “flash fried.” The temperature needs to be hot enough where excess water will evaporate to reduce the tomato sauce. Simmering the tomatoes for 20 mins will ruin the freshness of a tomato, as well as cook nutrients out of the fresh tomato. I prefer a fresh tomato taste, not a stewed tomato.
I finish all my sauces with uncooked extra virgin olive oil, never butter.
- Add 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to finish.
If you would like to add a 1lb box of pasta, I recommend removing about ½ to ¾ cup of this sauce, then adding the pasta. Your pasta should not be overly sauced. And you can always re-add more if you need it. Here I have added rigatoni pasta that has been under-cooked, it will absorb the sauce.
Remember that the last minute of cooking is for the pasta to cook in the sauce. These noodles will absorb flavor from the sauce and elevate the flavor of the pasta. Make sure the sauce goes inside the tubes of the macaroni. It is often said in Italy: that if you have done it correctly, the pasta will talk to you. Meaning, the sauce and pasta make a characteristic noise of sauciness when the dish is stirred together. It’s the sound of properly coated noodles.
This second video is only a couple seconds after and you can already see how much the pasta has absorbed the sauce and “thickened.” It will continue to absorb the sauce so be careful not to over sauce it. In the end, it’s all about the texture of the pasta. Serve with more Parmesan Reggiano and fresh basil. Enjoy your Rigatoni!
20 thoughts on “The Pasta Cheat Sheet 🍝”
Fantastic! This is an eye opener. The best pasta guide that really talks in depth about HOW TO steps that are self explanatory. Keep the good work up.
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Pasta recipes are my favorite, but don’t know how to prepare them. My husband has been on my neck to thrill him with pasta, but I was in the dark until i read your 10+1 commandments(secret tips) of making the recipe in an healthy way. Lol. It’s awesome to read and I saved your pasta cheat sheet. Thanks in a million!
Since it’s the end of fall, try the Butternut Squash & Sage Pasta from the sheet. Your husband and family will love it.
I’m a noob in the kitchen so I need all the help I can get haha. I just downloaded your pasta cheat sheet and it’s a huge time saver for me. I love Italian cuisine but I’m not that successful when it comes to cooking the dish myself. I’ll try your ricotta pasta, it sounds so yummy and super easy to make! You should make these cheat sheets for other dishes as well, nothing beats simplicity, especially if you’re just discovering your passion for cooking, just like me.
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Lily, thanks for visiting. You’ll love the Fresh Ricotta Pasta. 🙂 Add the lemon at the end, you don’t want to cook the lemon because it will become bitter. This is a favorite among my friends, Hannah and Andrea from my class loved the subtle lemon flavored ricotta.
I love pasta and tried all sorts of ways to cook the excellent pasta, yet there is still something missing. Your free pasta cheat sheet comes in the right time, I learned something new, your 10 steps and secret tip, what a great help, thanks for your big heart and sharing!
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Mmmm… Everything in the cheatsheet looks scrumptious! Since I have all the ingredients needed, so am planning to make buttersquash and sage pasta for dinner tonight, wish me luck, thanks for the tips, I never knew about the proper steps, no wonder!
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Perfecting timing for fall! I love the butternut squash and sage flavor. Enjoy, Jen.
The cheat sheet is super helpful but I have on question though… Isn’t 1 minute a tad too short? I usually boil them 5-7 minutes and they’re not mushy. I never follow any recipe – my bad – I just boil whatever pasta I have in the pantry and make a tomato sauce, I never tried any other sauces until now. Your pesto pasta looks divine, I have to give it a go next time.
Follow the directions on the back of the box. The manufacturer knows how long to cook it, and every shape of pasta requires a different time. Set the timer for 1 minute less the cooking time, drain them, and add to the sauce for the last minute of cooking time. Hope that helps!
When in doubt, some simple spaghetti will do the trick!
De Cecco Pasta, Spaghetti, 16 Ounce (Pack of 5) [Click HERE to view]
What an awesome pasta resource, I thought I had a bit of ‘pasta-cred’ but this has given me more useful tips in the one article than I would have got from an hour of searching the web. I also didn’t realise my mistakes in using oil during the cooking process and washing away all the starchy water when I rinsed my pasta! Given me plenty of inspiration to use the new tips for dinner with the family this weekend – thanks for sharing your knowledge.
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Instructions AND free recipe’s? Score!!! But seriously this page has made me hungry and now I have to sit through another half day of work before I can go home and try some. Your Butternut squash & sage pasta looks amazing. I don’t eat a lot of seafood so I had a quick question about the anchovy fillets – are they mostly to impart umami or do they make the dish taste fishy? (I do know from friends cooking roast lamb who use a little bit of anchovy to give it a subtle extra taste which is not at all fishy – is this the same effect?)
Hi Amy, great question!
As you said, they are an umami flavor. They add the saltiness from the sea. Gives dept to the sauce. And much like caesar salad dressing recipes, you won’t even taste the anchovy itself. Hope that helps! 🙂
Definitely just a flavour enhancer Amy. Like your friends, we do a roast leg of lamb with anchovy fillets, garlic and rosemary. There is no fishy aftertaste at all but the roast lamb done this way has an extra depth to it that we can’t do without nowadays! Also an anchovy fillet or two chopped finely with a little garlic brings a subtle splash of flavour to otherwise mild creamy scrambled eggs 🙂
Oh Yum a classic pesto is always a sign of a real pasta connoisseur, especially since you make yours fresh with whole foods. Really impressive tips you have and authentic tastes as well. I was quite interested to see you also have combined ingredients like Pancetta & Pea. Such a fresh taste of summer in that mix, we quite often will make sourdough toast while frying up Pancetta, fresh peas from the garden a knob of butter and then serve on the toast – the simplicity and freshness of the two main ingredients go surprisingly well (especially with some Parmesan like you have used in your recipe) Have you ever tried adding a bit of heavy cream to the mix just before serving?
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Meg, Sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
I don’t usually add a “drink of cream” at the end. I prefer to finish the dish with extra virgin olive oil. But certainly do what tastes yummy to you!
Ahh bellissimo! when I have cravings for something garlicky I always go for a Linguine aglio e olio. Such a simple classic with oil and garlic (proves that less is sometimes more!) although I have never tried it with HOT pepper flakes, this sounds delicious … a little kicker of spice. Do you ever mix through extras like shrimp or ham or do you prefer it ‘pure’?
I love this. it is simply a wonderful guide to making the best pasta. I also love the way it was explained; simple and easy.
I can’t just thank you enough for this page. You have helped me put a smile back on the face of my marriage. My husband is a die-hard lover of pasta (probably because his mother is very good at making it) but I have a very little idea about how it’s been made. I face lots of complains from him until I used your simple and easy tips here.
I’m glad I found this site!
You know what? I am getting to work right away. I have all the ingredients needed to make a good sage pasta and butter squash. I am sure it’s going to be a new story for my family tonight; and a good one for that matter.