In movies, you see pasta made one of two ways. There’s either a towering aluminum pot, as large as a small home, holding what seems like 14 pounds of spaghetti and red sauce, which is being dished out to a large group of people. (Maybe even a high school football team?) Or there’s a small skillet, being meticulously stirred in a professional kitchen as a small portion of expensive pasta is added to the sauce, possibly in slow motion, and plated artfully on a glistening dish. That’s movie pasta, made in either a giant pot or a small skillet. But in real life, we make pasta in a Dutch oven, because when you’re cooking a pound of pasta, it’s the best option you have.
If you’ve never used a Dutch oven to make pasta, that’s totally cool. This isn’t some new, scary experience you have to prepare for. All you have to do is switch one pot for another. But why are we telling you to do this? Well, there are a few reasons. Let’s dive in.
The most convincing reason that the Dutch oven is the best pasta pot has to do with its size and shape. When we make pasta, we like to finish it, cooked just short of al dente, in the same pan that we’ve made our sauce in, where it can become fully coated with our beautifully-emulsified pasta sauce. And here’s the thing: Tossing a whole pound of pasta in a regular ol’ skillet, filled with a bunch of other ingredients, is a recipe for disaster—the pasta ends up flying everywhere. A Dutch oven is one of the few vessels in our kitchen that is large enough and has high enough sides to facilitate all of those carbs being tossed around without losing one single precious noodle.
And less mess should be enough of a reason to make the switch to the Dutch oven for finishing pastas. But if you need one more, another enabler for your laziness, Dutch ovens are great for serving as well. Just wipe up the edges, put a towel down on your table, and plop that big old pot of pasta in front of everyone. Buon appetito, as they say.
But there are plenty of other reasons to reach for your trusty Dutch oven when you’re taking a trip to pasta town. Most Dutch ovens—whether they happen to be coated in enamel or simply seasoned—are made from a base of cast-iron, and if you’re familiar with Basically, even in the slightest, you know we’re big fans of cast-iron. We like a cast-iron skillet, pot, or pan for a multitude of reasons, but the main reason is that the material retains and balances heat very efficiently. That means more even cooking, less scorching, and a smoother all-around food-heating experience—and it’s good at keeping the food in it warm long after it’s been removed from the heat. What’s not to like about that?
You might also notice that we do a lot of different things in a Dutch oven. We use it to braise meats. We use it to caramelize onions. We use it to bake bread. A Dutch oven is a kitchen workhorse, capable of performing just about every cooking task there is. And before you complain about how expensive enameled Dutch ovens are, just relax: You can get a very high quality one from a less-hyped brand for around $80. And you should. Because this vessel can do whatever you want it to do. And because every pound of pasta you cook from now on will thank you.
a version of this blog originally ran on BonAppetit