The surprising trick to making pasta that tastes better and is never mushy

Spaghetti with tomato sauce

Pasta is a weeknight dinner winner. It’s affordable, accessible, easy and incredibly versatile. Go for a classic, like spaghetti and meatballs, spice things up with a viral recipe, like Gigi Hadid’s Spicy Vodka Pasta, or choose your own culinary adventure by boiling pasta and tossing it with the leftover meat and vegetables from the fridge – and don’t forget the cheese.

While what you mix with your pasta often gets the most attention, we recently came across a tip that focuses on the pasta itself. We all know how to boil pasta until al dente, but have you tried grill your pasta before it even hits the water? The trick promises tastier pasta that’s almost impossible to overcook. We explored the method to learn more and tried it in our own kitchen. Here’s what you need to know.

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Why should you grill your pasta?

Toasting foods, whether nuts, bread, or rice pilaf, adds flavor. And that’s also the idea here. Lightly browning your pasta before cooking adds a rich layer of nutty flavor. The technique of pre-grilling pasta is not a new idea. Cooks around the world have been doing it for a long time. An example: Mexican Fideo Seco, in which thin pasta is grilled in a pan then simmered in a tomato-based sauce.

The experts at America’s Test Kitchen tried the method and gave it a warm thumbs up. They included instructions for grilling the pasta in the oven, microwave, or in a pot on the stove. They said any of the methods would improve your pasta, so the next step for me was to try it IRL.

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<p>Nathan Hutsenpiller</p>
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How to Grill Pasta

You have a few options here: you can heat some oil in your pasta pot, break the pasta into the pot, and toss it in the oil until it’s lightly browned and toasted. Option 2 is to toss 8 ounces of pasta with oil and microwave it at 50% power for 3-5 minutes, after which some of the pasta should be a little blistered.

I ignored both of these methods and opted for option 3: the oven. I preheated my oven to 350° and spread 8 ounces of pasta evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I cooked the pasta until each piece was golden brown, which took about 10 minutes.

<p>Nathan Hutsenpiller</p>
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What Happened When I Grilled Pasta at Home

My main tip is to keep an eye on the pasta while it’s grilling, as it’s easy to accidentally burn some pieces. My oven is a bit finicky and I accidentally heated it to 375° instead of 350°, which meant my pasta was cooked around the 6 minute mark.

Despite my toasting mistake, the boiling process went smoothly, although I had to boil the pasta a few minutes longer than usual for al dente pasta. The extra cooking time was definitely worth it.

When I tried the pasta, I immediately noticed the nutty taste. It was so flavorful that I felt like all I really needed was to add a little olive oil and freshly grated parmesan to complete the meal. I had already prepared the sauce but the dish would have been delicious without it. This is a tip I’ll add to my cooking routine as a fun and easy way to upgrade a basic bowl of noodles.

Next: The secret ingredient to making salmon that tastes like it came from a restaurant

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