I thought I knew how to cook Italian food, being half Italian, with an awful lot of perfectly-cooked al dente pasta under my belt. But I've been wrong about one detail, which I realized during the recent Top Chef Italian Challenge.
Tom Colicchio pointed out that Dale's dish tasted like all the components had been cooked separately and then thrown together to serve. And I realized that's what we do! We boil pasta, prepare a sauce or topping, serve pasta, then serve topping. But, that's wrong!
Then I remembered something I read recently in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, in a chapter where he was explaining the various stations in a restaurant kitchen.
They par-cook pasta in restaurants, then dunk a serving in boiling water to finish, THEN toss the pasta with the sauce! Duh!
We were planning a simple linguine and jarred sauce meal, so we drained the pasta, then tossed our servings with the heated sauce. The result:
Then we had some linguine with fried eggs on top. I heated some olive oil in a pan and toasted some walnuts, then added the pasta and some pasta water. Those few ingredients were enough to make a sauce. Then topped with some cheese and two fried eggs. The result: