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Pasta & Sauce

I'm making "spaghetti" for about 12 people this weekend. Growing up our family always mixed the sauce and the pasta in a serving dish before it went on the table. I was always surprised when visiting other people who had the pasta and sauce in different plates and you served yourself from each plate.

While the separate method allows each person to determine their own pasta/sauce ratio, it also means that either the pasta is served at room temperature or else it all sticks together. It also never seemed to me like the pasta and sauce "bonded" properly this way. comments?

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  1. Like you I prefer to sauce my pasta before plating -- in fact, I dump the just cooked pasta (al dente, of course) right into the pot where the sauce is being cooked.

    If the pasta and sauce were to be presented separately, I think to prevent sticking I would just drizzle some EVOO on the pasta.

    1. I've never done anything other than combine the pasta with the sauce before serving, and for most sauces, I "marry" the pasta and the sauce over heat briefly. That said, my husband loves sauces of all kinds, so I tend to toss less sauce with the pasta than he would like, and then let him add more sauce if he chooses to.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        <"I've never done anything other than combine the pasta with the sauce before serving, and for most sauces, I "marry" the pasta and the sauce over heat briefly.">

        This is exactly what my Italian family members and friends have been doing for generations. Also we add more sauce in a gravy boat at table so people can help themselves to additional sauce if they want. Additionally we place a bowl of freshly grated Romano and one of red pepper flakes as well. Don't forget the Chanti.....

        1. re: Gio

          My Italian American Grandfather, who cooked pasta and red sauce every Sunday for the extended family did it this way as well. He would "marry" the pasta with some of the sauce over the heat and serve us all plates of lightly sauced pasta (we didn't put the pasta on the table, my Grandfather served the portions hot straight out of the pot in the kitchen) We also had a gravy boat or pyrex bowl with extra sauce at the table for those who wanted more. If we had Sausage, Meatballs and Braciola, etc. that week, they would be in separate covered bowls in a little sauce on the table for people to serve themselves as well. Obviously Parmesean and other condiments were on the table too. I and most my family still cook pasta and sauce this way.

          "Marrying" it really does give you the most flavor, in my experience of having it other ways.

          1. re: EliEats

            And wouldn't you know I Had to mis-type Chianti. LOL.
            But the method of serving the macaroni is writ in stone. Or is that marble.....

      2. My husband insists we serve pasta and sauce separately and store leftovers the same way, so we do. It doesn't usually stick when it's hot. If it was going to sit for a bit I would probably add a small pat of butter and toss it around in that.

        Growing up with seven kids in the house, my mom used to mix just a tiny amount of sauce with the pasta to keep it from sticking, and then passed the sauce around in a large measuring cup so it was easy to pour.

        This also satisfied the kids who didn't like much sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: TrishUntrapped

          That's what I do. Add a little sauce, then pass the rest.

        2. Compromise! Mix a little - a couple of spoonsful, depending on the amount of pasta - of the sauce into the pasta, enough to lubricate it and prevent it from sticking; mix well, and reserve the rest of the sauce for individual serving. Best of both worlds.

          1. Serving unsauced pasta is like serving undressed salad. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but it can never be as good as when each piece is completely enrobed by a thin layer of goodness. If you want to accommodate those who prefer their pasta more American style - with what traditional Italian cooks would consider an excess of sauce - you could always pass around extra. But I would definitely lightly sauce the pasta before serving it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alanbarnes

              I totally agree with alanbarnes. I grew up Italian-American, eating pasta drowned in sauce, with more sauce to add once it came to the table. I have returned to my culinary roots and now make my own sauce, letting it cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes. The flavors become very concentrated and only a little sauce is needed to finish cooking and flavoring the pasta. For me, and for those I cook for, it creates a much better balance of tastes, with the sauce acting as more of the traditional condiment it was supposed to be. There are usually no leftovers (much to my disappointment!).

            2. Like most people here I like to sauce my pasta, although it depends what kind of sauce we are serving. For clam linguini I usually combine all the pasta into the pan with the calm sauce. For spaghetti with meat sauce, I usually mix a cup or so of sauce into the pasta, then serve more sauce on top of the individual servings. Cheese is optional, my son piles it on, I sprinkle a bit and my wife likes it plain.

              1. I often make more sauce than I plan to use for the bath of pasta for later use/freezing. I will drain the pasta, and rince out the pot it was cooking in to cool it o ff a bit, then add some of the sauce to that empty pot, then add back the pasta. If I add the pasta to the sauce pot, there is too much sauce for the pasta. I let it mix up, then plate on heated plates, and offer extra sauce to anyone who wants it. You can always add more sauce, but it is harder to take it away once the pasta is drowing in it.
                Heating pasta plates/boels is a recent addition but I think it makes a huge difference, I love keeping everything piping hot.

                1. Thanks for all the suggestions, and an amazing level of concurrence for chowhounds.

                  I will plan to lightly sauce the pasta, and leave the rest in the slow cooker with a ladle. Since spaghetti will be the main dish, I imagine most will be adding more sauce, but I like that they can add to their own taste.

                  I plan to keep things simple, a green salad, garlic bread, and see if any veggies look good at the farmer's market tomorrow. Highly unlikely that the plates will be warmed, but I will keep it in mind for another occasion.

                  Thanks again!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    My quick tip for warming the pasta bowl - put it on top of the pot in which you are boiling the pasta for a minute or two - heats right up. Hope you have a great dinner.