When we decided to collaborate with a chef on our new pasta sauce and tools collection, we turned to the pasta queen herself: Giada De Laurentiis. The chef, TV host and cookbook author was born in Rome, where she learned a thing or two about making delicious, authentic pasta dishes while in the kitchen with her Italian grandfather (or, as Giada says, “my nonno”).
Giada took what she knew from her time cooking with her Italian grandfather and combined it with her own modern perspective to create a one-of-a-kind pasta collection with Williams Sonoma. The collection features sauces inspired by everything from her daughter’s favorite flavors to the most popular dish at her Vegas restaurant and spice blends inspired by her recent travels to Italy. She also crafted tools designed with home cooks in mind, like the cheese grater with a flared shape that makes it easier to grate hard cheeses (and spares your knuckles!).
As we worked with Giada to create and photograph the collection, we learned a ton about how to perfect even the simplest of pasta dishes. Watch our behind-the-scenes video for a glimpse of Giada on set, then read on for her five unbreakable pasta rules.
The Italian term “al dente,” used to measure the doneness of pasta, literally translates to “to the tooth,” but Giada describes it as when the pasta “has a bit of a bite” – it should be fully cooked through, but still firm when you bite through it. Giada always samples a piece of pasta before deeming it officially done.
Clearly sauce is essential to Giada—it’s why she spent so much time perfecting the five sauces in her Williams Sonoma collection. But no matter the sauce she’s choosing to cook with that day, she always pours it into a large pan and brings it to a simmer as the pasta cooks. The warm sauce actually helps the pasta finish cooking and ensures everyone’s meal is served warm.
Instead of draining pasta and then stirring in the warm sauce, Giada uses a spider to transfer the al dente pasta from the boiling water into the pot with the simmering sauce. That way the pasta is perfectly positioned for Giada’s cheese technique…
Giada’s grandfather taught her to grate cheese directly over warm, un-sauced pasta before tossing it in sauce. “It’s an old Neapolitan way of making pasta,” says Giada. “You add the cheese the pasta and, that way, the sauce sticks to the cheese, which sticks to the pasta.” The method is a reversal of the typical American way of sprinkling cheese on top of sauced pasta, and a flavor revelation that results in cheesy deliciousness in every bite.
Remember in rule three (see above) how you removed the pasta with a spider instead of draining it? Well, that move left you with a treasure trove of starchy pasta water – Giada scoops out about a quarter to a half a cup and adds it to her pasta to ensure the sauce is the right consistency. “The starchy water helps the sauce and the cheese come together.” In the end? A truly perfect bowl of pasta.
Learn more about Giada De Laurentiis, including the story behind her new sauce collection. If you’re in the area, join Giada at the Williams Sonoma Columbus Circle Store on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 7 p.m. to celebrate her new collection! Meet Giada, taste her new line of pasta sauces, seasonings and shop the new collection of pasta tools. Reserve your spot today!