I have never met an individual who detested pasta. And for anyone who does, there are countless more who love it to such a degree to override such hate. With the exception of Italians, the greatest subset of its admirers is students. For many, it’s the first dish they learn to cook and becomes a mainstay of their repertoire after graduation. Its components are cheap and have a long shelf life. Often without even trying, when my fridge is bare, I still find everything I need for satisfying pasta in my cupboards. However, despite our love, there is always room for improvement. I am not here to suggest you make your noodles by hand, but with some slight adjustments to your process, you’ll uncover a handful more reasons to love it.
Use your noodle
Arguably the only aspect of pasta that can be enjoyed on its own (say with a knob of butter and seasoning), don’t take noodles for granted and remain curious. Sure, you could buy the same old spaghetti, but on your next grocery shop explore the shelves above and below. Since pasta is such a reliable dish, it’s worth taking a risk to search out a new signature noodle. Even lasagna noodles can be cooked and sliced lengthwise for a wide noodle suitable for anything from Bolognese to Alfredo. In the case of any noodle, the same principle applies: al dente is king.
Drop the jar
Premade sauces are appropriate training wheels for kitchen newbies. However, there comes a time when you have to rid your pantry of jars or cans of pasta sauce. Remember when it comes to noodles, I did not propose you make your own. I respect your limited time and patience. However, the sauce is another matter entirely. With little effort and skill, you can produce as delicious an equivalent. Combine a mix of canned crushed and chopped tomatoes, some fresh herbs, sugar or a grated carrot, garlic and seasoning and allow to simmer for as little as thirty minutes—enough to boil your noodles, prep an accompanying side and pour yourself a drink—for a respectable tomato sauce. Another classic in my kitchen, fried egg pasta is spaghetti noodles dressed in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and topped with two over easy eggs. Once you burst the runny yolks with the gentle prod of your folk, they coat your noodles in a rich pseudo sauce. So suck it up, make your own sauce (and then suck that up too).
To top it off
You thought you could call it a day after a mess of noodles and a slap of sauce, huh? Forget it. With the appropriate garnish, you can add flavour, texture and maybe even some wise servings of protein or veggies to round out your meal. Try toasting a handful of breadcrumbs in a frying pan until crisp and brown, combine with chopped fresh herbs and salt before sprinkling over practically any pasta. Or rather than grated cheese, why not top your pasta with a dollop of ricotta or a slice of fresh mozzarella, allowing it to soften and ooze over your noodles?