Boil some water, throw on some sauce and--voilà: dinner. How tough can cooking pasta be? According to chef Justin Smillie, who is teaching a Pizza and Pasta Master Class at the New York City Wine & Food Festival on October 17, we could be doing this whole thing way better. (And he knows his stuff--just ask President Obama, who recently popped by the chef’s much-buzzed-about restaurant, Upland.) Here, his tips on how not to mess it up next time.
Stop trying to improvise. Ever wonder why that carbonara recipe you tried was delicious the first time and a total gloppy mess the second? Smillie says that even the tiniest details--from the amount of salt you use to the pot you’re boiling the water in--are crucial. “Always use the same stainless-steel pot with a heavy bottom, and boil an abundance of water that’s salty like the sea.” Even switching the brand of salt you season the water with could affect the recipe.
Lay off the cheese and butter. Yeah, we know everything tastes better with cheese, but resist the urge to cover that ravioli in a mountain of Parmesan. “The tendency is to over-add,” Smillie explains. “Pick three ingredients you love that are in season and keep it at that. Find some great squash, roast it beautifully and toss it with sage, balsamic and maybe some pecorino…and that’s it.”
Don’t salvage overcooked noodles. So you were all caught up in that new episode of The Affair, you didn’t notice the timer buzzing and now your pasta is a tad on the mushy side. Can it be saved? The answer is absolutely not. “Just throw it away and cry yourself to sleep,” he jokes.
Sample the chef’s eats at NYCWFF’s “A Dinner with Charles Phan and Justin Smillie,” on October 15.