The 3 Simple Ingredients Giada De Laurentiis Says Your Pasta Needs

If you're craving some hearty Italian food, Giada De Laurentiis can provide plenty of cooking tips and recipes. But when she's making pasta, the Italian-born chef has three essential ingredients she adds to every one of her dishes: Pasta water, extra virgin olive oil, and a little bit of cheese.

De Laurentiis posted a video on her TikTok account, showing off how she makes "the perfect pasta." She first boils her water before adding salt to it. "Add a lot of salt," she said. "Make it taste like the sea." Then, after the pasta has cooked, she scoops it out of the water instead of straining it. She allows the pasta water to continue boiling, then ladles the water out to mix in with the sauce. "Pasta water is gold," she concludes.

Using leftover pasta water can help thicken your sauces. As the pasta cooks, the starch from the noodles is released into the water. This could also help the sauce stick to the pasta a little better, making for more flavorful bites.

Good oil can enhance the sauce

Although extra virgin olive oil is one of her essential ingredients, she says she "never" adds it to her pasta water. Instead, she opts to add it to her sauces. In an interview with POPSUGAR, De Laurentiis said she will "always finish" her pasta dishes with the oil. Her go-to brand of extra virgin olive oil is Lucini. In another TikTok video, she explained that she prefers to use higher-quality bottles of olive oil to finish dishes, rather than cooking with them.

Adding olive oil to cooked pasta can help enhance the flavors of the sauce, and add a little extra richness to the dish. It can pair especially well with acidic, tomato-based sauces. If your sauce is slightly watery, drizzling a little bit of extra virgin olive oil can help it thicken.

Depending on what brand of extra virgin olive oil you bring home, it can also take on a variety of flavors. Herby oils may go well in dishes like cacio e pepe, while bitter-tasting oils may do best when contrasting sweeter sauces, like marinara sauce.

The chef's preferred toppings

De Laurentiis told POPSUGAR in 2017 that she also adds a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese to her pasta dishes. But you wouldn't catch her sprinkling on the powdery stuff from the grocery store; she grates her cheese fresh when it's time to serve the dish. However, that's not the only cheese the chef likes to utilize. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table in March 2023, she revealed that her favorite cheese to add to pasta dishes is actually pecorino romano. 

No matter what type of cheese she adds, De Laurentiis mixes it in an order that may seem a little unconventional. In a YouTube video for Williams Sonoma, the chef shared her rule for cheese in pasta: She adds her cheese prior to mixing the cooked pasta and sauce, not after. "That way, the sauce sticks to the cheese that sticks to the pasta," she explained. This can also allow the cheese to melt into the dish a little extra, making for a warm, hearty-tasting dish.