Step Up Your Pasta Game

No matter your idea of the perfect pasta dish, start with the right tools and top-notch ingredients.

This week is all about one of my favorite foods—pasta! Pasta is one of those foods I never tire of, whether it’s store-bought penne with a simple sauce or made-from-scratch tagliatelle dressed up with meat and vegetables. No matter your idea of the perfect pasta dish, you need to start with the right tools and top-notch ingredients, which is exactly what you’ll find in this week’s collection. Our favorite manual pasta machine makes it easy to churn out fresh noodles, and our top-rated colander ensures that your pasta doesn’t get hit with backwash during draining. A great-tasting meal is just minutes away.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.

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This server’s small perforations drained water without losing pasta; its long teeth grabbed and held long strands with ease (their slightly wide placement meant smaller pasta sometimes slipped out, but this was a minor issue). Its long handle with comfortable silicone grip kept hands a safe distance from hot water, and the gently angled head was just right for easy control.

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With one of the largest, longest grating surfaces and ultrasharp teeth, our previous favorite effortlessly shredded foods of all sizes and textures, taking the least time to do so and generating virtually no waste. While testers wished this paddle-style grater’s wire handle was a bit more comfortable to hold, its length made it easy to grip in a number of ways. Rubber-tipped feet kept the grater from slipping, and testers also loved how easy the grater was to clean and store.

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This box grater had a large, long grating surface studded with stamped holes. Its teeth were just a hair less keen than those of our favorite paddle grater; nevertheless, it grated hard vegetables and soft cheese quickly and efficiently. Testers liked how stably this grater sat on the cutting board, thanks in part to the grippy plastic bumper around its base. And it had a large plastic handle that was comfortable to hold in different positions.  More on this test

This sturdy, well-designed mini colander is just the right size and shape for rinsing small amounts of food such as fresh produce or canned beans. It expands easily to a 3-inch height and collapses to a compact 1-inch-tall oval for easy storage. The snap-on base covers the drainage holes, so it can be filled with water for deeper cleaning or act as a drip-free serving bowl. We like the oval shape; it’s easy to direct the clean produce or beans into a storage container or bowl. It’s also easily cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. Finally, though we don’t recommend using it to drain large amounts of cooked vegetables or pasta, the silicone is heat-resistant and it can be used in a pinch for small batches.

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The Ferrari of the pasta machine world, this model was a little more expensive than the others, but it sure was a pleasure to handle. It sported both the widest and the narrowest thickness settings in our lineup; we barely had to roll dough out to fit it through the machine, and we could effortlessly dial the machine down to produce gossamer-thin sheets. Its laser-sharp noodle attachment produced perfect fettuccine and angel hair every time.

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Testers raved about this classic wooden spoon. Light, long, and maneuverable, it kept our hands far from the heat, and its rounded, tapered handle was comfortable and easy to grip in a variety of ways as we worked. It also suited both right- and left-handed testers. The slim tip of its nicely scooped-out oval bowl was easy to maneuver under food for turning and scooping, and when angled slightly, the head provided sufficient area for scraping fond. Made of teak, the wood resisted staining or drying out, retained its color, and never became rough to touch, even after 10 cycles through the dishwasher. 

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Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.

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The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists. These tongs struggled a bit when transferring ramekins, as the uncoated pincers didn’t securely grip the ceramic, but this is a less common use, and the tongs excelled at every other task. This pair felt like a natural extension of our hands.

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