Italian Classics Made Easy: Perfect Pasta al Pomodoro | Learn with Eataly | Nicoletta Grippo | Skillshare

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Italian Classics Made Easy: Perfect Pasta al Pomodoro | Learn with Eataly

teacher avatar Nicoletta Grippo, Chef at La Scuola di Eataly

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Making Pasta al Pomodoro


    • 4.

      Finishing and Plating


    • 5.

      Next Up: Learn Fresh Pasta


    • 6.

      More Culinary Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

Upgrade your everyday cooking using ingredients you already have in your pantry! 

Throw away the box, and let Eataly's chef Nicoletta Grippo teach you the nuances and techniques for making an italian classic, Pasta al Pomodoro — a quick, light dish made with fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil that's perfect for all occasions.

After walking step-by-step through the recipe, she'll have you making pasta that looks and tastes like it's straight from the Italian countryside — all with just a few easy tips that will vastly improve your home cooking.

You’ll learn: 

  • why dried pasta is just as good as fresh pasta (just different 'species')
  • how to cook to that perfect 'al dente' bite 
  • three options for the perfect accompanying sauce 
  • how to make the dish Bucatini al Pomodoro (hollow spaghetti with tomato sauce) 

Chef Nicoletta also shares secrets to keeping cut garlic fresh all week long and how to plate long pasta with ease, making this easy staple even simpler (and prettier!). 

Adding this foundational Italian recipe to your repertoire will ensure you always have an answer to the question, “what’s for dinner?” whether it’s a busy weeknight or you’re planning your next dinner party.


Eataly is a bustling Italian marketplace in NYC, Chicago, and Boston with a mission to bring people together through quality food & drink. We cook what we sell, we sell what we cook.

Next up: Learn how to Make Fresh Pasta the Real Italian Way

Meet Your Teacher

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Nicoletta Grippo

Chef at La Scuola di Eataly


Nicoletta Grippo is the head chef at La Scuola di Eataly in Flatiron, NYC. She has been cooking her whole life for family and friends, but originally started her career on a path to becoming an international corporate lawyer. She then started a gelato, coffee and pastry shop 13 years ago in Vancouver, BC, and that’s where her passion for cooking really took off.

Shortly thereafter, Nicoletta joined a culinary school in Italy and became a traveling culinary teacher — and eventually landed in Brooklyn with her own restaurant. Now a full-time Italian Cooking teacher at La Scuola inside Eataly, Nicoletta’s classes range from Pasta 101 to wine pairings to handmade gnocchi and beyond.

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1. Introduction: Welcome, everyone. My name's Nicoletta Grippo. I'm the chef here at La Scuola at Eataly. I started cooking right from the time when I was a kid. I was going to school to be an international corporate lawyer when I opened up a gelateria in Vancouver about 14 years ago, and I got in the kitchen by accident and never left. So today, we are going to be making one of my absolute favorite things which is pasta. Today's class is geared towards absolutely everyone. Part of what I want you guys to take from today is that you can take these techniques and you can apply them to a lot of different types of dishes. Cooking is fun. Cooking should be fun. Making pasta should be fun and if it's not, you're doing it wrong. All right. So, let's get started. 2. Ingredients: One of the reasons that I really, really love teaching people about pasta is because it's usually one of the first things that you've learned to cook on your own. Probably all of you cooked dried pasta at home, maybe even fresh pasta. I want to leave you with some tips today to make it even better, how to properly cook pasta. So, one of the dishes that we're going to be cooking right now is pasta al pomodoro. Pasta al pomodoro is one of the most iconic Italian pasta dishes, I would say. It's something that is a great starter pasta that anyone can cook. It's something that is beautiful enough to serve to your guests at a dinner party but also simple enough that you can simply prepare it during the week. All you need are really good quality canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, really good quality tomatoes in general. We have a few different options here. So, you could use San Marzano tomatoes which are a great option but any good quality canned tomato will do. The only important part when buying canned tomatoes is that they are whole. So no crushed tomatoes, no diced tomatoes, whole canned tomatoes because of the quality of those is far greater whenever they are left whole and intact. Another option would be fresh tomatoes. So fresh tomatoes, of course, only when they are in season and that's going to vary based on where you live. Cherry tomatoes are great for this, so we do have some canned cherry tomatoes as well as some fresh cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are great because they have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Fortunately now, we're finally starting to see canned cherry tomatoes pop-up in supermarkets. This was something that was not always available, so if you do see them, do buy them. But for those of you that do add sugar to your tomato sauce, if it is a little bit acidic, you won't have to do it with this because they are perfectly sweet and perfectly acidic when you're making a sauce. The final option is a Passata. So, Passata is taking a few steps out of this this is not jarred sauce by any means. So, no buying jarred sauce. Passata, what it is, is tomatoes that have already been milled so it removes the seeds and the skin to give you a really, really smooth beautiful texture which is very typical of pasta al pomodoro. So, that's a shortcut to the extra steps that I'm about to show you shortly. Also, you're going to need some fresh garlic. Whole heads of garlic only. Never pre-chopped or pre-peeled garlic. If you smell it, it doesn't even smell like garlic anymore. It actually smells fermented because it's already started to break down so you want to avoid that at all costs. Something that you can do though to make life a little bit easier is you can, maybe on a Sunday when you're doing your food preparations for the week, if you want to save some time, you could take garlic, slice it, chop it, mince it, grate it, however it is that you're going to use it, and keep it sott'olio. So, what is sott'olio? it means keeping it under olive oil. When you keep it refrigerated just like this, it'll stay very, very fresh. You'll maintain the true flavor of the garlic. It's also great because it allows you to have some infused olive oil that you can use in salad dressings, you can use it in sauces, if maybe you don't want actual pieces of garlic in there, if that's something that bothers you. We've got some red pepper flake here. Make sure that your spices, your red pepper flakes are fresh. Most of you probably have red pepper flakes that had been sitting in your cabinet for the past seven years. Throw them out, buy new ones. Make sure you buy your spices from a place that has a high turnover so that they're very fresh. Just a pinch of this should be enough, it should have enough heat. You'll actually be able to smell it as you cook, you'll smell the spiciness and might even actually cause you to start sneezing, so that's a sign of freshness. Kosher salt, lots of it. The kosher salt is going to be to salt your pasta water. It's also going to be to, of course, season your sauce. Good quality pasta or whatever pasta that you have on hand is fine. You want to make sure that you use a long pasta for this that is very traditional. That could be spaghetti or bucatini are the most typically used, but if you had linguine, that would be fine as well. Some fresh basil. Little tip to keep this nice and fresh in the refrigerator, just wrap it in a dry paper towel in a ziploc and that'll help to keep it fresher longer. Good quality olive oil. Make sure that you don't cook with something that you wouldn't eat on its own. So if you wouldn't dip a piece of bread into this olive oil, then you shouldn't be cooking with it. That does not mean that it needs to be expensive, but it should be something of at least decent quality that you would gladly drizzle on a salad or, again, dip a piece of bread in. All right, so the next option would be if you don't have a food mill or if you like a little more texture to your sauce, which actually I personally like to have a little more texture to my sauce, it would be to crush them by hand. So you will take your whole canned tomatoes, whatever kind they would be, you dump them into a bowl again with the juices. With clean hands, you'll just go ahead and crush the tomatoes into a pulp and use this as the base for your sauce. With regards to how much you should crush it, that's up to you, how much texture you want. The tomatoes will cook down quite a bit, so you don't have to worry about crushing it super smooth. Again, like I said, I like to have a little bit of texture. One of the great things about Italian cooking is that it is very rustic. So, feel free to adapt, change it, do whatever you'd like, there is no wrong with this. All right, now, although all of these options are pretty easy, this is our easiest option and this is the Passata. You simply open up your jar and again, this is not canned tomato sauce. Open up your jar and you have tomatoes that are already smooth, pureed, no seeds, and no skin, if that's something that bothers you. If it's not, again, you can use fresh tomatoes, you can use the canned tomatoes, you can crush them by hand, it's whatever you like best. So, when you use fresh tomatoes, you have an option. You can put them through the food mill and that will remove the skins and the seeds. Personally, when tomatoes are in season, I love the skins and the seeds being in the sauce. So I'll just take them, chop them up, dice them, and throw them in a pan with olive oil, just the way they are. 3. Making Pasta al Pomodoro: So, to start off our pomodoro sauce, we will put it on medium heat, add in our olive oil as little or as much as you'd like. We have our sliced garlic. We've sliced this very thin on the mandolin. You could mince it, you could chop it, whatever you would like. The reason that we have it nice and thin is because it helps to dissolve into the sauce. So, we want to cook this garlic until it becomes nice and fragrant. We're not actually looking to brown the garlic. Once the garlic begins to brown, it's actually starting to burn and it changes the flavor profile. So, we want it to become nice and fragrant. That's all we're looking for. At that point, we'll be able to add in our peperoncino. The garlic is nice and fragrant. So, we are ready to add our peperoncino. You don't want to add it too soon because it will burn and that will change the flavor as well. Lower heat slightly. We will add in our tomato. Be careful, it does splatter. You'll allow this to gently simmer until it reduces by about a third. You don't want it to turn brick red, you want it still to be nice and loose for the pasta. So, if it thickens too much, you can just add in some water to bring it back to life. So, I'm agitating the pan, it helps to emulsify the sauce. This is a really great trick especially if you're making a butter sauce. It helps to bring the sauce together, stop it from separating, and again, emulsify it. We're going to season this as well right now. You can season it at the very end or at the very beginning, that's up to you, but an important trick when seasoning is that you season up high. That is a restaurant trick. One, it looks cool, and two, you get nice even distribution of your salt. What we're looking for when we're reducing a sauce is we're concentrating the flavor. We're evaporating some of the extra moisture out of it and that's going to give it more of a flavor boost. This is especially important if you're cooking it with fresh tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes have a lot of water already to them. Canned tomatoes and passata have already been cooked down somewhat, so they're already more concentrated. So, you just want to evaporate about a third of the excess moisture out of the sauce. You can look, of course, for a ring around your pot as to where it's been reduced to. When cooking pasta, timing is everything. You always want to have your sauce already hot and ready to go by the time your pasta is ready. So, for this sauce, depending on how much you're making, it can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes to reduce. If you're making a really big batch, it's about a 30-minute window. Your pasta cooking time will vary with the brand of pasta that you use, the shape of pasta that you use. The important thing is to know that, don't follow the instructions on the bag or the box. They're all lies. The best way to tell if your pasta is ready is to actually taste it. What we're looking for here is for our pasta water to come to a nice healthy boil before we season it, before we do anything. We are about there right now. This is one of my favorite and one of the most important parts that people often neglect when making pasta, how to properly season your pasta water. Please watch carefully. That is a lot of salt. That is because your pasta water needs to be as salty as the sea. If you're not sure what that means, just take a spoonful very carefully of course and taste it. If it tastes like a mouthful of ocean water, you're on the right track. A fun rule of thumb with that, the Italians tend to follow is about 10 grams of salt per liter of water. Now that our pasta is properly seasoned, boiling, and ready for the pasta, I want to point out that I am not adding olive oil to the pasta water. That is a myth and it is a myth that so many people follow. They always add olive oil to their pasta water. The reason is and this goes back to what I told you about in the beginning, looking for that rough surface on the pasta. The reason that you don't put olive oil in your pasta water is because you want the sauce to adhere to the outside of every individual piece of pasta. If you add olive oil to your pasta water, you create a slick surface. With that slick surface, this sauce will not stick to the pasta, so it creates a problem. Also, when you season the pasta water, the reason that it has to be as salty as the sea has to do with the fact that all pasta, dry or fresh, has little to no salt in it. For 10 servings, it has maybe a pinch of salt in it, if at all. So, it's very, very important in order to properly season your pasta to its core that you do season it very, very heavily. How much pasta to cook for how many people. Now, this is going to vary from household to household. It's going to vary. Italians, we tend to have a very heavy hand. So, I'll give you the home version and the restaurant version. More or less, if you're cooking pasta that you're going to have dinner with multiple courses where pasta is your primo, you will serve about three ounces or so of dried pasta per person. What does that look like? It is about this much per person. If you are serving pasta for a very hungry crowd or if it's a meal that maybe the pasta is the main course, you're going to want to serve a little bit more. So, about a pound of pasta for four people. If you're going to have six people, let's say, and multiple courses, a pound with still do the job. We are going to cook our pasta. Our pasta today is bucatini. Bucatini, like I had mentioned, is spaghetti with a perfect pinhole down the center. Why that hole is there is because it allows the sauce to infiltrate every individual strand of pasta, so you really, really get the full effect of the sauce. Please notice, I am not going to break this pasta. Do not ever, ever break long pasta. I think that is a crime punishable by jail time in Italy. So, do not break your pasta. The beauty of a long pasta is that it is long so that you can eat it by twirling it onto a fork. So, we're going to drop our pasta directly into our pasta water just like so. Using tongs, you gently want to kind of coax it as it cooks down into the pot. This helps to ensure that your pasta does not stick. The idea behind adding olive oil to pasta water for people is that it would stop the pasta from sticking. The way to stop your pasta from sticking is just plenty of room in the pot, plenty of boiling water, and be sure to stir your pasta frequently. For a long pasta, you'll stir it with tongs. For a shorter pasta, you can stir with your spider or with a spoon. Again, cooking time, how to know how long to cook your pasta, it's going to vary, so do keep a close eye and do taste your pasta when you feel that it's getting close to the time of. You will want to pull your pasta shy of being ready. It's very important that it still has that beautiful al dente bite to it. So, you're going to want to test sooner rather than later with this. Very crucial that you start stiring a long pasta like this very early in the beginning, because it will weigh down to the bottom of the pot and that is when you will get strands sticking to one another. Pasta al pomodoro is unique in that you will pull your pasta a little bit sooner than others. Typically, you want to pull your pasta about two minutes, 1-2 minutes shy of being ready, because the next step after this which is so crucial and this is one that will make or break your dish. You will always, always, always finish cooking your pasta in its respective sauce for the final 1-2 minutes. For those of you that run to your sink, dump your pasta out into a colander, lose all of those beautiful pasta water which I'll also get into, and put your pasta in a bowl, put some sauce on top and mix it around, you don't want to do that. You want to make sure that you always finish cooking your pasta in its respective sauce. So, you will pull it shy of being ready from the cooking water, shy of the al dente that you actually want to eat it at, and continue cooking it to the al dente that you'll eat it at in your sauce. 4. Finishing and Plating: We are going to take some of our pasta water. This is very very important and we're going to add it to our sauce. The reason that we do this is because this pasta water has all these beautiful starches in it that the pasta has given off and that helps to give the sauce a very velvety texture, and it also helps to emulsify the sauce. So, this pasta is still very al dente. We're looking for it to have just wilted. This is unique to pasta al pomodoro that we're putting the pasta into this sauce this soon. But we are going to take it with our tongs, and transfer it directly into our sauce here. Again, this is one of the most important parts that people often neglect. So, you do want to have your sauce nice, and hot and ready for your pasta. You want to make sure that you kind of nicely gently coat it all together. So, because this is still fairly raw, you don't want to attempt to toss it at this point because it won't work out too well. A fun fact, if you want to practice how to toss pasta in a pan, or how to toss anything in a pan. for that matter, you take a pan, put some dried beans, rice, and dried lentils in there, and you'll practice with those and it's a really really good way to get the hang of that. So, you can see, that the sauce is already starting to nicely coat this pasta but it is still very raw. Reserve your pasta water to the side. Do not throw this out until the final dish is served. Because you may need more. If your sauce dries out, this is a really really good way to loosen your sauce because as the pasta continues cooking in its respective sauce, it's going to rob the sauce of some of the moisture. So, you want to make sure that you have this beautiful well-seasoned starchy water on hand to rehydrate the sauce, should that be necessary. So, I'm gently kind of stirring this together, and you'll find with pasta al pomodoro that very often, you will need more pasta water. Fun fact about pasta water too, so what makes a butter sauce in a restaurant so much better than the pasta with butter that you make at home? That is the simple addition of the boiling salted water. It makes the butter sauce again really creamy, and velvety and beautiful in texture. All right. So, this pasta is now really starting to loosen up and wilt and that is what we're looking for. So, it is still on heat. It is on a fairly high heat because we are cooking this pasta. We are going to take a little more pasta water and added to this. To help loosen it somewhat, to help the pasta to finish cook, make sure that you continuously stir this pasta. Pasta is something that, you know once it's ready once you're committed to it, you can't leave much like the result. So, you're not going to walk away, and answer the phone and forget about it. Timing is crucial with us. Getting it to the perfect al dente is very crucial. So, whenever you are adding fresh herbs to a dish, they will be added at the very end. When you add dry herbs, they go in at the very beginning. So, this pasta calls for fresh basil. So, we are going to add that in now. I'm going to pull it from the heat temporarily, so that we don't overcook it. We're going to take some fresh basil and just very nicely tear in here. Just allow the heat to gently draw those beautiful flavors from the basil. One of the beautiful things of fresh herbs is the freshness, that's something that we want to showcase. So, we don't want to lose that by overcooking it. You could gets the whole leaves in there, you could tear it, you could chop it if you wanted as well, really there's no rules, that's part of the fun part again of Italian cooking as it can be very rustic. So, our pasta is all ready now. This is what you're looking for. The sauce is nice and thick. It's coated every individual strand of the pasta. We've added in our fresh basil, you can add as little, or as much as you want, and it is ready to serve. Of course, how to tell if the pasta is ready? It is a terrible job of actually tasting it, so we will go ahead and do that, just a little bite to check for al dente. Perfect. All right. So, we're ready to plate. Very important, pasta must be made ala minute. What does that mean? You want to make it and serve it immediately. Pasta will begin to deteriorate very rapidly. So, using your tongs to plate a long pasta, just bring it over to your plate, a little fun check, give your plate a twirl, and you have your beautiful plate of pasta al pomodoro. You can finish it off with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, and a little sprig of basil. There you are. Classic Pasta al Pomodoro. You'll notice, that we do not have any cheese on here, feel free to add it if you want, but the very traditional way to eat is without cheese because the pasta sauce has been thickened by all these beautiful starches. Buon appetito. 5. Next Up: Learn Fresh Pasta: so. 6. More Culinary Classes on Skillshare: