How do I make pasta more interesting?
With a few clever tricks, you can easily take your routine pasta dishes to a new level.
- Upgrade your essential sauce ingredients, such as olive oil and tinned tomatoes. Go for San Marzano tinned tomatoes for added sweetness and more fleshy tomatoes, and choose a fantastic olive oil such as this Grand Brahis Noir for instant flavour explosion.
- Take care with your cooking timing. Make sure you don’t over-cook your pasta; maintaining the al dente ‘bite’. There’s nothing worse than flabby, texture-less pasta!
- Have some fun with coloured pasta! A really quick way to make pasta more interesting is to colour homemade pasta dough with squid ink, or choose a pre-made pasta in vibrant rainbow colours.
- Add a good amount of salt to your cooking water, to give your pasta as much flavour as possible. The cooking water should taste like the sea.
What to make with plain pasta
Here are a few simple serving ideas for plain pasta – these garnishes and flavours need no cooking and can be added just before serving:
- Tinned fish such as anchovies or sardines
- A squeeze of lemon juice with basil leaves, olive oil and black pepper
- Italian pumpkin and truffle puree
- A scattering of olives, or a spoonful of olive tapenade
- A good grating of quality Parmesan cheese and black pepper
The best pasta recipes
Pair spicy Calabrian sausage with sweet, tangy wild garlic for an extraordinarily good dish. The recipe is ready in just 15 minutes to make, but you’ll be dreaming of it for days after. Simply wilt the wild garlic leaves in a frying pan with a knob of butter then twist the dark green fronds through your spaghetti for dramatic effect. See full recipe here.
Pasta With Mushrooms And Hazelnut Oil Recipe
Another super-speedy supper, the key to this flavoured-packed dish is the Pariani hazelnut oil which is drizzled over the pasta just before serving. The sweet, earthy oil is fantastic with fresh mushrooms and a good grating of Parmesan cheese. Full recipe available here.
Halloween Squid Ink Pasta Recipe
We first made this at Halloween, but in fact squid ink pasta is a classic Italian dish which can be eaten at any time of year. The black ink has a slightly briny flavour and really coats the pasta. We chose fusilli lunghi bucati which is a longe, fine spiral shape and looks particularly fun on the plate. Garnish with fresh basil and grated cheese, enjoy! Make your own halloween squid ink pasta now by following the recipe here.
Slow-Roasted Pork-filled Tortelloni Recipe
These homemade parcels of pasta are a joy to make and a joy to eat. Once you master the delicate sealing technique you can fill these pasta shapes with anything you like. We’ve gone for slow-roasted pork shoulder here, but a lighter version of ricotta and herbs, or simple braised mushrooms would also be delicious. Click through for the full recipe.
Lobster Tortellini Recipe
Push the boat out and make your own lobster-filled tortellini, coloured with squid ink! This is a showstopper to seriously impress friends and family – or to spoil someone you love with a special dinner. If you have any extra black pasta dough left over, make it into spaghetti or simple lasagne sheets for another day. Make your own following the full recipe here.
Mushroom 'Carbonara' Recipe
This recipe is a real staple at Sous Chef HQ, and a fantastic way to enjoy our selection of wild dried mushrooms. The pasta dish is brought together with a mixture of beaten egg and grated Pecorino, which creates that signature creamy carbonara texture. Adding a spoon of the mushroom steeping liquor adds even more flavour to the dish. Full recipe available here.
Quick Weeknight Pappardelle & Trompette Mushrooms
Pappardelle is a lovely wide pasta shape which makes a hearty dish. The thick strips of pasta look great adorned with curls of delicate black trompette mushrooms, which give your dish a heady earthy hit. This simple combination is even more tasty with the addition of a blue cheese such as gooey Gorgonzola. Click through for the full recipe.
The best pasta sauces
A good pasta sauce is always useful to have up your sleeve. If you’re looking for an even quicker dinner than the recipes above, take a look at our pasta sauces and discover a broad selection of pestos, tomato passata and unusual flavours.
This punchy basil pesto is made using Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano cheese with basil leaves – blended with cashew nuts for a thick, creamy-textured pesto. Simply dollop a spoonful into your pan of cooked and drained pasta and incorporate everything with a little retained cooking water for a silky smooth dish, ready in a jiffy.
Use this nduja with wild garlic in the recipe above, or pair it with roasted veg, fresh peas or sliced olives. The spicy sausage paste is soft and smooth and has a very strong, fiery flavour – a little goes a long way. It’s incredibly simple to use, simply stir through cooked pasta for a vibrant, flavourful dinner.
Creamy, smooth, nutty and slightly tangy – this artichoke paste is something a little bit special. It is bursting with the flavour of freshly cooked artichokes, and only needs a few torn fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of excellent olive oil to make a spectacular midweek meal. It’s also delicious on bruschetta with mozzarella.
La Favorita makes really excellent old-fashioned tomato sauces, which are beautifully sweet. This sauce has a lovely slow-cooked texture, studded with olives which add even more flavour. Serve it with freshly cooked pasta, and pieces of baked white fish for a lovely, simple dinner.
Which pasta should I buy?
Choose between these excellent dried pastas, and make your recipes really sing!
Made in the town of Gragnano, in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius, this pasta has protected IGP status. It is made with just wheat and water (no egg), according to the cucina povera tradition of southern Italy, which heroes simple, cheap and easily available ingredients. However, despite its humble ingredients list, this pasta is very special. It has an excellent bite, a lovely pale colour which shows the starch has not been overheated during production, and a lovely rough surface that really picks up your sauce.
It’s hard to overstate just how good this egg pasta is. It’s loved by Michelin chefs across the globe, and often served in restaurants. The pasta has a silky, velvety smooth texture - but retains its al dente bite. Enriched with egg yolk, it’s a golden yellow colour, and tastes beautifully rich. It has a cult following among chefs and home cooks alike, and has been heralded by some people as the best pasta in the world!
Pastificio Del Colle makes a fun selection of colourful pasta, in a huge variety of shapes. Crucially, all the beautiful bright colours are achieved with natural colourings such as beetroot, seaweed, turmeric and squid ink. The rainbow shapes look gorgeous piled high on your plate, and only need a few simple extras to make a fantastic dinner. Think fresh herbs, olive oil, anchovies or olives and you’re onto a winner.
Rummo makes a large selection of pasta, including egg pasta lasagne sheets and many unusual shapes such as zite spaghetti tubes and frilly mafaldine pappardelle. The Rummo family has worked hard over many years to find the very best ingredients to make their pasta – which has gathered a fan-base across the world. Take a look at their tasty pasta sauces, too.