The Pasta Sauce Question

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The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Hoke » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:08 pm

When it comes to pasta, there seems to be a pretty clear division between people who prefer their pasta and sauce prepared, that is, sauce mixed in before serving; whereas others have a strong preference for serving the pasta with the sauce clearly poured atop the pasta.

I realize it can be a conditional thing, in that some dishes may be better one way or the other, but it intrigues me that some people (me included) have some pretty clear preferences in general.

By far most of the time, I like my pasta and sauce mixed prior to service. My wife doesn't. So, of course at home we do it her way.

Which do you generally prefer?
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:43 pm

Hoke wrote:whereas others have a strong preference for serving the pasta with the sauce clearly poured atop the pasta.


At the table?

I've never heard of this. For what kind of dishes is it most common?

(Obviously you can see my preferences)
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:03 pm

I grew up with the sauce atop the pasta crowd, but Betsy is strongly a mixer, and I have been converted.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Carl Eppig » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:45 pm

We do it both ways as you seem to suggest. What determines it most of the time is whether or not there is something clunky in sauce like meatballs or the hunks of lamb in our lamb shanks and pasta recipe. If the sauce is clunkless we drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce. Otherwise we drain it, put it in a bowl and pour the sauce on top.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:03 pm

I have a very slight preference for pre-mixed but I'm easy. :D
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:34 pm

I like mix a small amount of the sauce into the pasta first, introduce it, if you will. The pasta is easier to spoon up into a plate, and then put your desired amount of pasta on top.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Christina Georgina » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:34 am

I almost always sauce at table with the one exception always being cappellini/cappelli d'angelli = angel hair. This pasta is cooked way al dente and then the final cooking in the sauce makes it much easier to serve. Some brands really absorb liquid in the final seconds and can get gummy and clump together making it very unattractive. I also do this when I intentionally want the starch in the cooking water clinging to the pasta to thicken the sauce a bit. In this case I do not drain the pasta in a colander but fork it out with lots of water clinging into the pan with the sauce and then finish it off.
Making ricotta gnocchi tomorrow for guests and they will go into a heated bowl with sauce on the bottom and more sauce will be layered on as they get scooped out of the boiling water. The whole thing with sit in the warming drawer melding a bit before final serving.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:20 am

I think it has to do with the type of pasta and how it's being served. One problem is that if you leave the pasta plain, and you cook more than will be immediately served, it will stick together after it's drained, if you don't put something on it. A small amount of sauce will prevent this, as will a bit of olive oil. For a big family dinner, I'll mix in enough sauce to prevent sticking, then place it on the table in a large, flat bowl, with a bit more sauce on the bottom and top, with meat balls & sausage links lined up around the outside and additional sauce on the side in a serving bowl. However, meat sauce with penne is all mixed together. If I make my own pasta, then I will use a bit of olive oil.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Redwinger » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:33 am

Depends upon the type of pasta and type of sauce, but if we're talking about spaghetti, I prefer the gravy on top. When pre-mixed, the presentation brings back boyhood memories of cafeteria spaghetti from Jr. High,
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Jenise » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:10 am

Redwinger wrote: When pre-mixed, the presentation brings back boyhood memories of cafeteria spaghetti from Jr. High,


Does this ring a bell! Growing up, the only pasta dish we ate at home was spaghetti with a red meat sauce (with a Lawry's seasoning sauce packet as the base!). We always served it naked, sauce on top, as did the iconic downtown L.A. Italian restaurant called Little Joe's that we ate at frequently (as did longtime Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, since the stadium was just up the hill). The only mixed versions in my world were school cafeteria food. One of the advantages of the sauce on top approach was that family members differed widely in their sauce-to-pasta ratio preferences. Although I loved the sauce and would happily eat it separately by the cup, like a soup, I loved the pasta best and preferred only a modest amount of sauce where my sister wanted her pasta swimming in it.

Nowadays, I go both ways though I still prefer my saucing on the scant side. Veal bolognese and most string-type pastas I prefer sauce on top. Most others benefit from an extra minute or two on the stove with the sauce to absorb the flavors and also to wilt any fresh herbs added at the end of cooking, something I do frequently. Of course, all that's about dried pasta. Fresh? Mix it.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Jon Peterson » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:37 am

At our home, the sauce is in a pan on the stove and the pasta is in the strainer. Each of us picks up a dish, fills it with the amount of pasta they want and then spoons sauce over it (and gets a few pieces of thick garlic bread fresh from the broiler) and heads to the table. At that point, after the wine is poured, each has the option of mixing up the sauce and pasts or not. In the end, everything seems to get mixed up anyway with a final service of pasta/sauce on top of a piece of the garlic bread.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:56 am

I'd agree with Carl that hunks of meat make a difference, is that case we probably do on top.

Don't think this guy has a future as a Food TV star
http://www.chow.com/food-news/54846/how ... armellini/
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:10 am

I grew up with pasta served the way Howie does it - with a little mixed in and more served on the side along with the meatballs, sausage, braciole, etc.

Now, I mostly mix it in before serving.

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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Karen/NoCA » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:46 pm

Dale Williams wrote:I'd agree with Carl that hunks of meat make a difference, is that case we probably do on top.

Don't think this guy has a future as a Food TV star
http://www.chow.com/food-news/54846/how ... armellini/

Are you referring to his method or his demeanor?
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:56 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Are you referring to his method or his demeanor?


Demeanor (method is basically same as Batali et al)
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Karen/NoCA » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:13 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Karen/NoCA wrote:Are you referring to his method or his demeanor?


Demeanor (method is basically same as Batali et al)


He might get into it after he gets comfortable. I remember Ina Garten with her first few shows. She was a nervous wreck. She became comfortable and found her own TV personality. What gets me is the background in the video....why don't they clean up a bit. No one wants to see all that background crap on the refer and shelving. Granted it was only seconds worth, but it caught my eye.
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Hoke » Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:56 pm

First, thanks to everybody for the great responses. Appreciated.

And as usual we're all over the place...as I expected we would be. Still interesting to see the whys and wherefores though.

As I alluded at the start, I can understand different pasta dishes being sauced in different ways...depending on the type of pasta and the type of sauce, or both.

I remember one of the best pasta-centered restaurants I've every enjoyed. Well, I remember everything but the name. It was in New York, close to Bloomies, up on the second floor. The best thing I remember was the owner/chef commenting that most people screwed up pasta because they didn't understand pasta and saucing...that, essentially, "Sauce means "sauce; despite what they say in New Jersey, it's not supposed to be "gravy". You shouldn't ever drown a pasta dish with sauce. Then it isn't pasta: it's a bowl of sauce with a little pasta in it."

That, and a few trips to Northern Italy changed by mind about how to cook and serve pasta. In Northern Italy I saw many more sauces that were non-tomato based, and in each one of those the pasta was well tossed or dredged, usually in a stove-top pan with the ingredients and sauce. Like, say, olive oil, bread crumbs and anchovies. Or truffles, olio and herbs.

Never was that pasta served as a blob of pasta with a sauce sitting on top. The pasta was coated lightly in the sauce. And that's almost always how I like mine.

Of course, I eat it any way its served, without complaints. Not being a fool. :lol:
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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:24 am

Hoke wrote:
I remember one of the best pasta-centered restaurants I've every enjoyed. Well, I remember everything but the name. It was in New York, close to Bloomies, up on the second floor. The best thing I remember was the owner/chef commenting that most people screwed up pasta because they didn't understand pasta and saucing...that, essentially, "Sauce means "sauce; despite what they say in New Jersey, it's not supposed to be "gravy". You shouldn't ever drown a pasta dish with sauce. Then it isn't pasta: it's a bowl of sauce with a little pasta in it."


Great point. Particularly with fresh pasta, I want to taste the noodles, too.

Hoke wrote:Of course, I eat it any way its served, without complaints. Not being a fool. :lol:


Yep! If it's properly cooked pasta with a good sauce, all of the above are just details that make it better.

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Re: The Pasta Sauce Question

Postby Carrie L. » Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:57 am

I have a definite preference for mixing in (even if it's just a little of the sauce) before serving. In fact, I just ordered shrimp scampi in a restaurant and was disappointed when it came to the table with dry pasta around the edges and a big pile of sauce on top. Once I stirred it around it was absolutely delicious though. :)
With most of the pasta dishes I make at home, I cook the pasta just slightly more "al dente" and cook it a minute or two in the sauce so the flavors really get absorbed.
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