The idea of a “pasta bowl” never really occurred to me until our team started to prepare for Starch Madness. “Isn’t every bowl a bowl that can hold pasta?” I wondered aloud in one of our meetings. And the answer was, well, “Yes.” However, I learned that some bowls are better for serving pasta than others.
What makes a good pasta bowl is just as much a matter of aesthetics (the bowl itself, the way pasta looks inside it) as it is about utility. A good pasta bowl should be easy to eat out of, but it also has to help make your pasta look beautiful. As Sasha pointed out to me, the goal of pasta presentation is a kind of effortless beauty, and a good pasta bowl will make it unnecessary to fuss a lot with your pasta; you can just gently place the pasta in the center of it, garnish it as necessary, and be done.
To that end, a good pasta bowl should have a wide bottom that’s flat in the center and slopes gently upward along the sides, a perfect platform for noodles with space for sauce to pool around the edges. The guiding principles here are that pasta needs an ample amount of space—to look nice, sure, but also to give the person eating it enough room to comfortably maneuver their utensils—but it also needs to be contained (anyone who’s stabbed at rigatoni knows they can go everywhere, if given the space).
Finally, a well-made pasta bowls will be relatively thick, which helps with heat retention; a beautifully prepared sauce can seize up if the bowl it’s been spooned into cools down very rapidly, in much the same way as a sauce spooned onto a cold plate.
Since we’ve been making and eating pasta in the Serious Eats kitchen for quite some time, we’ve come up with a pretty large collection of bowls we like to use when serving and eating pasta. Here are some of our favorites.