You've Probably Been Saucing Your Pasta All Wrong

There are things we Italians know how to do by tradition, as we learned them at home and, in some cases, through pure instinct. One of these is using the right sauce with the perfect kind of pasta. But this isn’t a fixation. Riccardo Felicetti, president of Aidepi, the association of Italian pasta makers, says, “There really are perfect combinations, which involve two aspects: the ergonomics of the pasta (depending on how it’s made, the sauce will cling to it, the rough surface of the past absorbs it, or the sauce goes into its coils) but also the way we eat each bite of pasta (twirled or speared with a fork). Both of these elements help create the perfect combination between the amount of pasta and the sauce on each bite, giving it the perfect balance.”

Here is a summary for some kinds of pasta, but we can also talk about this again.

1. Seafood – Capellini/ Spaghettini
The flavor of the most delicate fish tends to be best with thinner spaghetti. Capellini, traditionally used in broth, are ideal because they are delicate enough to bring out all the flavor of the seafood.
2. Ragu – tagliatelle
For such a rich meat sauce, you need a type of pasta it can cling to it, so you bite into a forkful that balances the fat in the sauce. Tagliatelle traditionally made by hand, flat and a bit rough, are perfect.

3. Tomato – Spaghetti

For tomato sauce, which has a more delicate taste, you need pasta with a round cross-section that doesn’t absorb too much sauce (the sauce tends to slide off, but the pasta is also slippery). The outcome? On the palate, the flavor is perfectly balanced because this format takes up just the right amount of sauce. The balance would be off with short and hollow pasta (like penne, where the sauce can go into the pasta).

4. Pesto – Trofie

Real pesto is made with potatoes and green beans, and the sauce of crushed basil, pine nuts and oil (commonly called pesto) is added only at the last minute. The pasta—preferably short— is cooked in the same water as the potatoes and beans. The coils of the trofie perfectly take up the right amount of sauce for each bite.

5. Tuna Sauce – Fusilli

Tuna sauce (made with canned tuna tossed with a little tomato sauce) is one of the most popular dishes among young people and college students living away from home. With their proverbial Italian ingenuity, at some point they understood that corkscrew pasta—fusilli— is perfect to pick up the bits of tuna in the sauce. While it’s not a traditional dish, it is very popular. And the combination is perfect.