Do we even have to talk about why pasta is so great? The carby staple can become the base for so many wonderful sauces, fillings, and toppings. Because it’s also relatively simple to master, dishes like mac and cheese and spaghetti and red sauce are often some of the first things we learn to cook.
And while a well-made lasagna will never go out of style, pasta is also an easy recipe-less meal. Boil pasta, add roast veggies with lots of garlic and olive oil, top with lots of Parmesan, call it a day. Of course, there are lots of ways to build on this: splash some cream, add bread crumbs, slice up some sausage or bits of a rotisserie chicken. In other words, pasta is your canvas as you are DaVinci. And while you don’t really need a ton of special equipment, sometimes an artist requires special tools. Here are the pasta accessories that can turn a solid dinner into a masterpiece.
A Big Enough Stock Pot
Cook N Home Stockpot
Don’t cook your pasta in a saucepan: that’s a recipe for sticking. This Cook N Home Stockpot is a popular, affordable option that comes in several sizes appropriate for cooking pasta. Graphic: Shep McAllister
Adding oil or salt to your pasta water won’t keep pasta from sticking. Stirring, and lots of water, are the only things that will make a real difference. If you’re using a small to midsized saucepan, you’ll not only run into problems with sticking, you’ll also have trouble getting longer pastas like spaghetti to cook evenly. Plus, once you have a big stockpot, you can batch-cook chili all fall and winter long.
This one’s affordable, popular, and comes in sizes from 5 quarts (big enough for a standard box of pasta) to 20 quarts (you don’t need 20 quarts).
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An Easy-to-Use Collander
Kitchen Gizmo Snap ‘N Strain Strainer
OK it’s not that hard to use a regular colander, but I appreciate that this well-rated clip-on colander allows you to drain pasta even if your sink is full, and requires less coordination.
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Cheese For Days
ZYLISS Classic Rotary Cheese Grater
Topping off pasta with Parmesan is a time-honored final flourish. It adds a bit of salty goodness to the dish and can even be the main ingredient for your sauce. (Cacio e Pepi, anyone?) Using a hand-held grater can help you get mounds of cheese, fast, with far less risk of nicked fingers. It’s also easy enough to put on the table if people need more cheese as they dine. My mother, visionary that she is, would actually leave the grater in a Zip-Loc bag in the fridge at all times so it would be ready to add cheese to anything.
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How to master cacio e pepe, the deceptively difficult paragon of pasta
The first time I attempted to make cacio e pepe, I thought it had to be just about the easiest…
Read more ReadWeeknight-Friendly Pasta Inspo
Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly
Back Pocket Pasta features 75 quick, easy, delicious, and beautifully photographed pasta recipes to inspire you. Graphic: Shep McAllister
If you ever feel a bit uninspired or want to just try something new, consider this cookbook your new go-to. The gorgeously photographed recipes are approachable and easy, making it perfect for weeknight meals.
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A Spaghetti Server — No, Not That Kind
OXO 12″ Tongs
Spaghetti Forks are unitaskers. Tongs work just as well, and can be used in lots of other cooking situations too. Photo: Amazon
Spaghetti forks are designed to make the slippery, skinny noodle easier to serve. But here’s my biggest complaint with them: They’re annoyingly single-use. You can’t use it to serve other pastas, and more often than not, they’re made out of materials that can bend or warp easily. I prefer tongs for serving because it’s a versatile tool I reach for all the time: I also use them for serving and tossing salad, when roasting and tossing veggies, and most importantly for flipping bacon.
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But Also Maybe A Pasta Nessie because… Pasta Nessi
If you insist on using a pasta fork though…at least make it a fun one.Photo: Amazon
But if you are going to buy a pasta fork, why not make it one based on a probably-mythic lake monster? Pasta Nessie will float comfortably in your pot between stirs and servings, and look really cute doing it.
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A Spiral Slicer That Doesn’t Take Up SpaceThe Veggetti takes up way less space than a traditional spiralizer, but can still durn vegetables into noodles for a healthier pasta alternative. Photo: Amazon
OK, I know I’ve mentioned the many delights of carbs, but sometimes you want to skip it for a veggie-based pasta-ish experience. I actually like doing it in the summer for two reasons: 1. You can get rid of the massive amounts of zucchini that dominates so many late-summer gardens and CSA shares and 2. You can have “noodles” without having to turn on the stove. But, unless you’re really into spiral-cutting vegetables, a whole Spiralizer can be a lot. The Veggetti is a weird as-seen-on-TV tool that will let you shread things like zucchini and sweet potato in a few seconds, and can easily be tucked away to a drawer and forgotten about for months at a time. If you’re not sure if you’re ready for a full-blow spiral cutter, this is a great place to start.
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A Pan For Crispier Cheese
Baker’s Edge Nonstick Edge Brownie Pan
You’ve seen this all-edge brownie pan, but did you know you can use it to the same effect with baked pastas? Betcha didn’t think of that. Graphic: Shep McAllister
The Baker’s Edge pan famously makes every brownie a corner brownie, and that, in itself, is a noble goal. But if you like corner brownies, you may also like the crispy edges of lasagna or baked ziti. Good thing this heavy-duty, non-stick pan is good for this as well. It can even be used to make smaller portions of baked pastas if you use a bit of aluminum foil as a DIY dam.
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A Faster Pasta Maker For When You’re Really Impatient
Fasta Pasta Microwave Pasta Cooker
Is boiling pasta actually that time consuming? Depend on how hungry you are. Fasta Pasta lets you get things going fast in the microwave. This is especially good for college students or anyone who might not have a stove as well.
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A Garlic Peeler
Maxracy Silicone Garlic Peeler
There’s no such thing as too much garlic, but there is such a thing as too much garlic peeling. These tubes make it easy to peel a bunch of cloves at once. Photo: Amazon
As the beloved adage viral tweet goes, “Don’t ever let a recipe tell you how much garlic to put in. You measure that with your heart.” If you enjoy putting gratuitous amounts of garlic into pasta, you’re not alone. And these inexpensive little silicone tubes are the best solution I’ve found for peeling garlic. (There’s that jar hack but, really, who has the time?) At $3 a pop, this is the lowest-priced option I found on Amazon. Once you get it, give the other sleeve to a good friend or save for later.
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The Perfect Bowl
Teocera Porcelain Salad Pasta Bowls
A low, long bowl is great for making a simple bowl of pasta feel more like a feast. They’re also great for big salads, grain bowls, and more. There’s also something about eating food out of a bowl like this, instead of a regular dinner plate, that makes it cozier.
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A Pasta Maker, For The Truly Ambitious
Imperia Pasta Maker Machine
There are few greater joys in this world than making your own pasta, if you’ve got the time. Graphic: Shep McAllister
Do you need to make your own pasta? Probably not. But, for ambitious chefs and enthusiasts, it can offer a fun challenge. Imperia’s heavy-duty hand-cranked pasta maker is a whole lot cheaper than automatic machines, and is a good place to start. If you want to expand into ravioli trays and more specialized equipment, they will often be even less of an investment.
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And Probably Farfalle Pot Holders
Pasta Shape Silicone Pot Holders
Farfalle pot holders aren’t essential by any means, but come on, how great are they? Graphic: Shep McAllister
Perhaps the least-essential pasta essential, these silicone grippers will help you grab handles of hot dishes while also looking like farfalle. But, far from being a much-maligned single-use item, you can also use them when you’re not making pasta as well.
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