The title might sounds dramatic, but the pasta water method is one of my most-used cooking techniques. It's incredibly simple, but will completely elevate virtually any home-cooked pasta dish. In fact, many restaurant dishes are made using this method, including the famous Scarpetta Spaghetti.
What is "The Pasta Water Method"?
I don't know if anyone other than myself actually calls it that, but it is a brilliant method on its own and deserves a name. The Pasta Water Method is a technique in which cooked pasta, along with a good amount of its pasta water cooking liquid is added to a sauté to turn it into a luscious sauce.
The starchiness of the pasta water helps to bind the sautéed ingredients together and adhere them to the pasta. The alternative is dry pasta, whose ingredients all fall to the bottom of the bowl. No one wants that.
What common pasta dishes use this method?...
Some of the best and most famous pasta recipes are incredibly quick and simple to make because they utilize The Pasta Water Method. Carbonara, Aglio Olio, Penne alla Vodka, and Spaghetti al Limone all utilize this method to develop a sauce. These recipes don't require cooking for hours, like a Sunday Gravy or ragù would. And they still achieve delicious, rich flavor and a creamy texture.
Here are three pasta recipes I've developed that call for The Pasta Water Method. Once you learn it, you'll realize you can make a delicious saucy pasta dish out of almost nothing.
Spicy Vodka Sauce with Farfalle and Peas
In this recipe, onion, fennel, tomato paste, and Calabrian chili peppers are all sautéd while the pasta cooks. Vodka sauce and creme fraiche give the sauce a head start, then the pasta water method takes over.
Pasta alla Primavera with Chicken Sausage
In this recipe, chicken sausage, garlic, tomato, and zucchini sauté while the pasta cooks. Lemon and white wine give the sauce a head start. Then, like in the previous recipe, The Pasta Water Method takes over to make a rich, creamy sauce that clings to each spaghetti noodle.
Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto using the Pasta Water Method
In this recipe, the Red Pepper Pesto is sautéd in the pan with garlic before the pasta water and pasta are added. Many times this method will also call for grated parmesan cheese to help make the sauce even more clingy and flavorful, but you can leave out the cheese if you don't have it, or if you want to go vegan.
Finally, Here's a Youtube Video where I make a pasta dish with just spaghetti and half of a jar of store bought olive tapenade.