When digging into a pasta course, you want the pasta and sauce to cohere, otherwise the sauce will pool on the plate and leave the pasta bare. There are a few simple tricks that help.
“What you actually want,” explains mbfant, “is not for the sauce to stick to the pasta but for the pasta to absorb the sauce. Anything that gives the pasta a slick surface will prevent this from happening,” including rinsing the pasta or adding oil to the cooking water.
The brand of pasta you use can also make a difference. “Extrusion through bronze dies (as opposed to stainless steel or even Teflon) imparts a rough surface to the pasta that, among other things, makes the pasta absorbent,” says mbfant. Bronze die-extruded brands include supermarket staple De Cecco, as well as Latini and Benedetto Cavalieri, which are available at specialty markets.
Several Chowhounds recommend finishing the pasta in a pan with the sauce. soypower ladles some sauce into a skillet over medium-low heat, adds a serving or two of pasta when it’s just shy of al dente, and cooks until the pasta is done.
Other hounds note that the pasta shape you use can make a difference. “Long, thin pasta shapes simply do not hold sauce as do the shaped pastas,” says Gio, while silverhawk notes that shapes such as shells, radiatore, and penne “are pretty much designed to hold sauce.” Check out CHOW’s guide to pairing pasta shapes and sauces.
Board Link: Why won’t my sauce stick to my pasta?