I’ve come a long way from the college days of pouring a microwaved jar of Ragu or Prego sauce on top of over-cooked pasta from a box. Now, I generally make fresh pasta (it doesn’t take much longer to make it from scratch than it takes for the big pot of water to come to a boil) and I’ve tweaked my red sauce to the point that I am pretty satisfied with it. I use whole plum tomatoes from a can, which saves a lot of time compared to starting with tomatoes from the produce department - and besides, I find canned tomatoes to be way more consistent in flavor than store-bought tomatoes - but everything else in the sauce is wonderfully fresh: evoo, onions, mushrooms, basil, a splash of merlot. Sometimes I’ll give it a little heat with some poblano peppers that I’ve prepared separately (blackened, peeled, seeded, soaked in evoo, and refrigerated). Lately, I’ve been using shallots instead of onions, which I think makes a subtle improvement.
So, I was surprised to see that I am literally pouring an opportunity down the drain when I dispose of the starchy cooking water after pulling out my pasta. In this video from Andrew Carmellini, he explains that adding a little bit of that starchy water will give the sauce an extra “shiny, yummy flavor.” Furthermore, I noticed that he does not cook the herbs until the end. I’ve been adding my basil shortly after adding the tomatoes, which gives the basil the maximum opportunity to diffuse its flavor to the sauce but admittedly wilts the herb beyond recognition. Finally, he finishes with a little bit of butter (which would not have occurred to me!), evoo, and grated cheese. All good things to try!