You’ve probably heard of a few common pasta hacks over the years, like adding tons of salt to your boiling water to really boost the flavor. But did you know toasting pasta before you cook it could also make a big difference in how it tastes?
According to Eden Faithfull at America’s Test Kitchen, this toasting technique can be vital for extracting a richer, nuttier flavor out of a pantry staple that’s typically known for being relatively bland on its own. Faithfull mentions that this method is great for dishes like spaghetti bolognese, Sopa Seca, orzo with veggies, and more. You can also experiment with it for any pasta dish that you think would benefit from a little extra flavor!
There are three different potential techniques you could use for toasting your pasta:
- Microwave: Mix together 8 ounces of pasta and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl and microwave and 50 percent heat for three to five minutes, tossing every 30 seconds or so.
- Oven: Put your pasta on a sheet tray and cook it for 350 degrees Fahrenheit for roughly 10 minutes.
- Stove: Break your pasta in half and toss it around in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it’s evenly coated. Stir around your pasta for six to 10 minutes until you begin to smell a nutty aroma in the air.
Personally, I opted for the oven method since my microwave can be a bit temperamental (I don’t want to burn my home down!), and I didn’t want to add more oil than I needed to. I also wanted to test how my traditional spaghetti would taste versus the chickpea spaghetti I also use quite frequently when I want a protein-and fiber-packed alternative, plus a farfalle pasta I had on hand to see if they thicker shape affected the taste at all.
Because my oven tends to run on the hot side, I adjusted the temperature 25 degrees lower to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. I also kept a closer watch while baking my pasta, checking every two minutes or so just to ensure that there wasn’t any smoke coming from the oven. (Again, I was nervous about burning!)
After about nine minutes, my pasta was starting to turn a slightly golden color and there was a savory smell wafting off the shells. I took it out of the oven, cooked it in normal boiling water, and gave the plain pasta a quick taste with nothing else on it. Sure enough, there’s a subtle nuttiness to the flavor that didn’t exist before! Even my chickpea spaghetti had a slightly smokier flavor, which I liked since the pasta itself tends to have a bean-like aftertaste (and often requires quite a bit of sauce to overpower it).
I ended up adding a basic tomato and basil sauce to the pasta, and while the new toasted pasta flavor didn’t suddenly overpower the sauce, I did notice that its richer nuttiness came through the more I chewed on my food. It definitely had a greater depth of flavor than the usual bowl of spaghetti.
I feel like the possibilities really are endless with this hack, and for those who have an air fryer or a small convection oven, it may be worth testing this hack out in those appliances too!