Gnocchi are always an invitation to more serious events (hence the Italian saying, the kids are making gnocchi again), and require a vigorous saucing. Penne, generally known as the break-up pasta of break-up pastas, should be served with a thin tomato sauce to avoid confusion. Philosophers think they want orrecchiette with spinach and gorgonzola but should be fed pappardelle Bolognese and quoted Machiavelli. Macaroni, whose image graces the banner of every childhood, asks only a little butter, milk and salt.
The question of al dente has plagued the pasta novice since pasta’s inception. Though some of the baser dried pastas require that you boil them for ages, the delicater fresh pastas need only be threatened with steeping. To tell when it is done, pasta, like the inner thighs of a lover, must be bitten softly. First, one must hold it tenderly for a moment between the incisors. Then the slightest pressure should be applied. When a thigh is nibbled, there is a moment just after the sharp intake of breath but before the cry of pain. This is al dente.
And please remember to go easy on the parmesan. Nothing makes everything better.