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Yes, spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. But for me, pasta is also a great accompaniment to almost any protein, especially in the winter. Even better, by using my four-step pasta formula, I can build all kinds of pasta combinations that start with creative shapes and end with surprises on top. It could not be easier! That is how it works.
Related—30 Creamy Pasta Recipes You’ll Love
Step 1: Choose a pasta form
Choose a shape or style of pasta that works well with the rest of your meal, and plan six ounces of dried pasta to serve two people as an accompaniment. Here is my insider’s guide to matching shapes to pages:
Braiser: pens or cavatappi to catch the sauce or gravy
Light main courses like fish and chicken: pappardelle, which eats lighter than some other forms
Delicious main course like beef or pork: chewy pastas like rigatoni
Related—15 quick and easy pasta recipes with few ingredients
Step 2: Top with butter
Of course, you can use plain butter here, but if you only have three ways to bring flavor to your pasta, get them all to count! To me, it means compound butter. I buy ready-made butter from brands like D’Artagnan, Isola and Kerrygold, or I make my own and store it in small portions in the freezer for convenience. You will need one tablespoon of butter for every six ounces of pasta.
White and black truffle butter for super luxurious taste
Roasted garlic butter for a rustic weight
Black garlic butter for a little sweetness
Porcini butter for an earthy fleshiness
Smoked paprika butter for both color and gentle smoked heat
Step 3: Add an intense flavor boost
This is where you put a delicious flavor in to make your pasta dish sing – an item that packs a small amount. Depending on how intense the flavor is, use between ½ tablespoon and 1½ tablespoon per six ounce of pasta. Use these ideas to get started:
Citrus peel or oil
Crispy bacon or pancetta tarts
And of course grated cheese
A note: With things like citrus peel, start with ½ tbsp. Crispy pancake cubes? 1½ tbsp. Generally, you should start with less; you can always add more.
Step 4: Top with a fresh herb
Do not skip this step! A fresh herbal hit brings both color and fresh flavor to your dish. Think about using these fresh (not dried!) Herbs:
And here you can think of pairing with your main course. If you are cooking your stew with thyme, then add fresh thyme to your pasta. If your lamb is marinated with rosemary, add fresh rosemary to your pasta. Assume ½-1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb per. six ounce pasta. More subtle herbs like basil, chives, parsley or chervil you can use more; woody or intense herbs like sage, mint, rosemary or thyme, start with less.
Some delicious pasta combinations
This is about playing and experimenting, but if you want a few to get you started, here are some of my favorite, dinner-tested combinations:
Pappardelle with truffle butter, lemon peel and chives
Cavatappi with porcini butter, pancetta and sage
Penne with toasted garlic butter, parmesan and parsley
Orecchiette with smoked paprika butter, sun-dried tomatoes and basil
Secret Step 5: Crunch!
Want to take this pasta to an even higher place? Add a texture element like toasted nuts or breadcrumbs to crunch.