Pasta Pronto – Dried Pasta with Easy Sauces

Let me pass on the method of cooking dry pasta that I learned from Eva Agnesi, president of one of Italy’s best pasta companies in Liguria.

Put the pasta, allowing 100-150 g (3½-5 oz) per person, into a large pan of boiling water. You can salt the water, or not. It is traditional to salt the water, but over the years I have become used to pasta cooked in unsalted water.


Bring the water back to the boil, and boil it fast for 2 minutes. Then move the pan off the heat to the back of the stove. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, and leave for the full 10 to 15 minutes, or whatever is specified on the packet.

Give the pasta a stir, and then strain it through a colander, over your serving bowl, using the hot water to heat the bowl. Do not over-drain the pasta.

Let it stand while you combine, in the pan, the pasta with your chosen sauce ingredients. Tip the water out of the bowl, and slide in the pasta and sauce from the saucepan. Serve immediately.

Pasta is the convenience food par excellence. While the water is boiling, you can assemble the rest of the ingredients; just some crushed garlic and anchovies, extra-virgin olive oil and a handful of rocket or watercress stirred into the freshly cooked and drained pasta makes a wonderful dish. Or some tomatoes from which you have first removed the seeds, then chopped, and stirred into the pasta with mascarpone or some diced mozzarella. When tomatoes are just going to be heated through, as in the sauce just mentioned, I do not bother peeling them. But if they are an ingredient in a slow-cooked sauce, it is preferable to remove the skin – otherwise it rolls into tough little spindles, which do nothing to enhance the dish.

Here are some more easy recipes for sauces to accompany pasta secca.