Michael Symon Explains How To Avoid Serving Watery Spaghetti

Spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce make for one of the easiest and most economical dinners around. But sometimes, even the simple act of boiling dried pasta and coating it in sauce can seem to bring up a crop of cooking questions. How long should you cook your pasta to achieve the perfect al dente texture? Should you really throw pasta at the wall to see if it's done? And what are the store-bought marinara sauces that are actually worth buying?

But there's another element to focus on, one that will help even the cheapest pasta and sauce at the store pass as an edible (if not gourmet) dinner: finishing the pasta. Many of us grew up simply straining the pasta, piling it on a plate, and spooning some heated marinara that came from a jar over the top. And as one beleaguered Twitter user discovered, this can lead to its own host of problems. "After plating spaghetti, why is there always liquid on the plate?" one person asked Michael Symon on the social media app. "This drives me insane! Is it from the pasta or the sauce?" Luckily, chef Symon was able to answer.

Finish pasta in the sauce

According to Michael Symon, there's a surefire way to avoid watery spaghetti: Finish cooking your pasta directly in a pan of simmering sauce. "Pull pasta out of water al dente," instructed Chef Symon on Twitter. "Put directly into sauce ... continue to cook in sauce till done," he advises. If the sauce gets too thick, you can add a ladle of hot pasta water to the pan to loosen things up again. But thanks to the starch in the water, the sauce will stick to your pasta rather than create a runny mess, according to Delallo, a brand that specializes in producing and distributing Italian food.

Once the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is the right consistency, "remove from heat and stir in parm & nub of butter," is Symon's final advice. Symon isn't alone in saying that you should always finish cooking pasta in a pan with the sauce. Science-minded food writer J. Kenji López-Alt also swears by this method on Serious Eats, and MarthaStewart.com advises using it, too, extolling pasta water's binding and thickening abilities as virtues that can enhance your favorite sauces. If you've often found yourself depressed while watching a pool of water spreading out from the pile of spaghetti on your plate, take Symon's advice to heart. The next time you make spaghetti, try to finish cooking it right in the pan with your warm marinara. You might be surprised what a difference it makes.