Int'l Food NYC

If Your Italian Pasta Dish is Soupy, Here’s Why You Should Send it Back

There is no denying that Salsa Cremosa or cream sauce in Italian, is delicious. I took this photo of my pasta dish while dining at a little Italian restaurant in a large piazza while visiting Rome a couple of years ago. If you’ve gone to an Italian restaurant for pasta—domestically and even sometimes abroad—you’ve probably had a generous helping of cream sauce on top of your pasta. The more sauce the better, you’ve probably thought—after all, a dish or restaurant that skimps on the sauce is skimping out on the customer. Or so you might think.


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In authentic Italian pasta dishes, the sauce shouldn’t be soupy. It actually should just coat the pasta.

Walk into any typical Italian restaurant, and you’ve probably had a pool of Alfredo in your Fettuccine or Gnocchi in a soup of pesto—we’re sorry!

Here’s the traditional or authentic way to sauce pasta according to Mario Batali’s How-to Tuesdays video segment, as demonstrated by Chef Rob Zwirz, a chef at Batali’s Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York City.

  • Cook the pasta
  • Heat the sauce when pasta is half way cooked
  • Add the pasta to the sauce—don’t pour out the pasta water!
  • Use the pasta water to bind the pasta to the sauce
  • Add the cheese off the heat

Watch the one minute video here for the demonstration.

The process can be complicated for most restaurants, but as you will see, Babbo does it right. Even so, there’s a lot of technique behind ensuring the Italian pasta dish is not soupy.

How much pasta should be added to the sauce pan?
How long the pasta should be cooked for?
How much pasta water can make the sauce stick to the pasta best?

OMGnocchi—so much to consider! It’s all part of authentic Italian technique. Don’t go to just any Italian restaurant—make sure it’s authentically Italian. There, you’ll find a discerning chef, like Rob Zwirz, who knows authentic Italian food preparation and to whom the process will be second nature.

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