We, too, have fallen victim to the novelty and empty promises of curious kitchen gadgets. (Three words: electric pot stirrer.) But we’re never fooled when it comes to pasta. We’ve found that the path to noodle know-how is to invest in certain pieces of multi-tasking equipment, which you can use for pasta—and more. Here are our pasta-making essentials, along with information on our recommended brands.
Though it doesn’t really matter what kind of pot you use for boiling pasta, we prefer to use a Dutch oven, which is more compact and easier to maneuver than a big stockpot—especially when it’s full of boiling water and a pound of pasta. In addition to cooking pasta in it, we also use this pot to make some pasta sauces and one-pot pasta suppers. When picking out a Dutch oven, look for one that’s midweight—if it’s too heavy, it’ll be a pain to move when you need to drain your spaghetti, and if it’s too light, it’ll heat too quickly and could result in burnt sauces or other food. Also, it should have a capacity of at least 6 quarts—any smaller and you’ll risk boil-overs. Our favorite brand is the All-Clad Stainless 8-Quart Stockpot ($259.99).
Straining is a big part of cooking pasta, and having a sturdy, heavy-duty colander is crucial and prevents a serious mishap with a huge pot of boiling water. The RSVP International Endurance Precision Pierced 5-Quart Stainless Steel Colander ($32.95) is a solidly constructed model that won’t tip over, thanks to a metal ring on the bottom. This mega-perforated colander allows for quick draining, and the holes are small enough that pasta won’t slip through.
What bowl of pasta is complete without a sprinkling of Parmesan? Not many. When we need a dish of Parmesan to pass at the table, we reach for our rasp-style grater or rotary grater. With its super-sharp teeth, the rasp grater can turn a hunk of hard cheese into ultra-fine shreds quickly. We like the Microplane Classic 40200 Zester/Grater ($14.95).
We use a rotary grater when we want larger, more rustic shreds of cheese (it works with both hard and semisoft cheeses); it has a chamber that holds the food to be shredded and a crank handle that operates the grating mechanism. The easy-to-operate Zyliss All Cheese Grater ($19.95) is our winner.
Though not ideal for tableside use, we find that a box grater is still an essential in the test kitchen. With its large shredding plane and holes in various sizes, it’s the right tool for shredding both hard and soft cheeses—ideal when we need to blast through a big block of mozzarella for a casserole—plus onions and more. Our winner, the OXO Good Grips Box Grater ($17.99) has a snap-on container for easy cleanup.
What’s your go-to gadget when cooking pasta?