It wasn’t until I went along with a friend while visiting New York City several years ago that I really learned to appreciate the beauty of pasta. Mario Batali’s Babbo’s is a phenomenal restaurant and by miles the best Italian food I have ever had.

There are just a few simple things to making amazing pasta dishes.

1. Fresh Pasta Noodles
2. A Simple Red Sauce
3. Don’t Over Sauce

For noodles, I recommend one of the gems of Southeastern Michigan – Ventimiglia Italian Foods in Sterling Heights. I make at least one trip there a month and you can stock up on fresh pasta and freeze it with still better results than any dry pasta purchase. If you can’t get to Ventimiglia, try making your own pasta. It really isn’t as hard as it looks. After about 2 or 3 times you will become a pro. I promise.

For the red sauce (photo above), I use Batali’s Basic Red Sauce recipe. The most important thing about this recipe is using the right canned whole peeled tomatoes. I highly recommend using ONLY Carmelina ‘e San Marzano. I make it according the recipe and freeze about 4 containers with enough sauce for making a pound of pasta. You can change up this sauce in a variety of ways. Here are a couple ideas: Add fresh ricotta and spinach. Add crumbled cooked italian sausage and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (and either blend in a food processor or not, either way is great.) Add mushrooms, fresh basil, and thinly sliced chicken breast. Or try your own modification.

For the best sausage, I recommend Alcamo’s Market in Dearborn. They make some amazing sausages including classic Italian and some very interesting varieties like their parsley, wine and cheese sausage and an orange peel sausage.

Finally, don’t over sauce. It is all about just having enough to coat the pasta, not drown it. This is my biggest issue with 95% of the Italian restaurants I have been to.