Italian chef Pier Davide Maiuri has dished out the biggest mistakes home cooks make when preparing pasta — including the one rule you should never break.
The executive chef behind Sydney’s esteemed dining establishments Bottega Coco, Luna Lu and Cardea has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants across Tokyo, Rome, Chicago and Bangkok.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Pier Davide Maiuri goes behind the scenes of Luna Lu.
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Bringing his rich Italian roots to Australia, the kitchen professional knows a thing or two about pasta making.
“The perfect pasta dish depends on personal preferences, but using quality ingredients, proper cooking techniques, and matching pasta shapes with suitable sauces can go a long way in creating a delicious meal,” Maiuri tells 7Life.
“The quality of your ingredients will greatly affect the overall taste of your dish.”
According to the chef, breaking dried spaghetti in half isn’t good etiquette.
Italian chef Pier Davide Maiuri has dished out the biggest mistakes home cooks make when preparing pasta at home Credit: Supplied
“It’s definitely not the traditional Italian approach to preparing pasta,” he explains.
“The idea is to embrace the length and texture of the pasta — cooking it whole allows for a more elegant presentation, and the long strands are able to hold sauce more effectively.
“It’s about preserving the integrity of the pasta and respecting the craftsmanship behind it, which is why you’ll never see an Italian breaking their spaghetti in half.”
Maiuri says cooked pasta should never be rinsed.
“Rinsing cooked pasta under cold water can remove the starch that helps the sauce adhere to the noodles,” he explains.
“It’s generally not recommended unless you’re making a cold pasta salad.”
Another error people make is not salting the pasta water.
“Pasta water should be salted generously to season the pasta properly. Don’t rely solely on salting the sauce,” he says.
“Well-seasoned water should taste like the sea, which helps flavour the pasta as it cooks.”
The Italian chef knows a thing or two about pasta making. File image. Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF
Maiuri says using a small pot with limited water can lead to uneven cooking and sticky pasta.
“Use a large pot with plenty of boiling water,” he says.
Always cook pasta al dente, according to the package instructions.
“Overcooking pasta can (make it) become mushy and lose its texture,” he says.
“Taste the pasta a minute or two before the recommended cooking time.”
Finally, Maiuri explains why you should stop throwing away all your pasta water.
“Before draining the pasta, set aside a cup of pasta cooking water,” he says.
“Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce in the pan to allow the flavours to meld and coat the pasta evenly.
“The water can be used to adjust the consistency and flavour of the sauce.”
Perfect sauce for each pasta shape:
Long pasta (spaghetti, linguine): Ideal for light, oil-based sauces, tomato-based sauces, or simple garlic and olive oil preparationsShort pasta (penne, rigatoni): Great with thicker, chunky sauces like Bolognese or creamy saucesRibbons (fettuccine, pappardelle): Suitable for rich, creamy sauces or mushroom-based preparationsShells (conchiglie): Hold chunky sauces well, such as meat or vegetable ragùTwists (fusilli, rotini): Work well with pesto, as the twists can hold the sauce effectivelyFilled pasta (ravioli, tortellini): Serve with simple butter and sage, or light tomato-based sauces to allow the filling’s flavours to shine
Pasta and wine pairing
Light tomato sauces: Pair with a light, crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio or a medium-bodied red like ChiantiCreamy pasta: Cream-based sauces go well with buttery Chardonnay or a rich, oaked white wineSeafood pasta: For dishes with seafood, consider a crisp, acidic white wine like Sauvignon BlancMeaty pasta: Heavy, meaty sauces like Bolognese match nicely with red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
Maiuri has offered his secret to the perfect spaghetti bolognese.
“Use high quality mince and try and make your sauce from scratch if you can,” he says.
“The flavour is in the meat and sauce, so the better quality the meat, the better the sauce.”
500g ground beef1 small onion, finely chopped2 cloves garlic, minced1 carrot, finely chopped1 celery stalk, finely chopped1 can (400g) crushed tomatoes1/2 cup red wine2 tbsp tomato pasteSalt and pepper to tasteOlive oil for cooking500g spaghettiGrated Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat olive oil in a pan, sauté onions, carrots and celery until softenedAdd ground meat and brown it. Break it into small pieces as it cooksStir in tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, red wine, oregano, salt, and pepper. Simmer for at least 30 minutesCook spaghetti al dente and toss with the sauceServe with grated Parmesan cheese
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