The Blog

The Mistakes You're Probably Making With Your Pasta

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Credit: Perry Santanachote/Thrillist

One of the first meals any clueless college student learns to make is pasta with tomato sauce, but there's more to Italy's finest export than simply heating the jarred stuff up on a hot plate while listening to Bob Marley's Legend. Unfortunately, though, many people still employ the bad sauce-making techniques of their youth.

To help upgrade basic pasta sauce -- here's a great recipe if you don't have one of your own -- we asked Italian chefs Justin Rupp of Austin, TX's Olive & June; Michael White of Michelin star-winning Marea (and many others); and Josh Dechellis of Il Buco Alimentari (which we called the best Italian in NYC) to school us on some of the most common mistakes people make when cooking sauce. Commit these tips to memory and never look back.

Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Not roasting the tomatoes
White stressed that if you don't have fantastic tomatoes, a workaround is to brush what you have with olive oil, cut off the bottoms, and roast them in an oven under the broiler for 20 minutes. This gives them a slight char and releases the sugars and acids.

Cooking the sauce for too long
An elderly grandmother stirring a sauce pot for eternity is an endearing image, but one that's a bit misleading. It's not necessary to slave over most simple tomato sauces. Both Rupp and Dechellis agree that five to 10 minutes over high heat with frequent stirring is enough to marry the ingredients without over-caramelizing the tomatoes.

Not cooking the garlic correctly
Burning the garlic is an easy amateur mistake to make, but it's just as common to undercook it. According to Dechellis, you should wait until the oil is rippling hot before adding garlic in order to avoid clumping and burning. Be patient and let it cook to a golden brown for a nice toasted flavor.

Pouring the sauce onto the pasta
"You should always add noodles back to the pan and cook them with the sauce," says Rupp. Letting the two elements cook together in the pan for a minute or so helps the sauce cling to the noodle and ensure there's sauce in each bite.

Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Forgetting anchovies
"Adding one or two anchovies per 20oz can of tomatoes adds that all-encompassing umami without adding fish flavor," says White. "It melts away and you don't even know they're in there."

Using bacon in carbonara
Bacon's certainly easier to get (and actually has health benefits), but according to Rupp, the smoked flavor can overpower a sauce. Opt instead for unsmoked cured meats like pancetta or guanciale.

More from Thrillist:

Like Thrillist on Facebook:

Also on HuffPost:

Shrimp Scampi
Damn Deilcious
Get the Shrimp Scampi recipe from Damn Deilcious
Garlic And Herb Roasted Cherry Tomato Carbonara With Crispy Prosciutto and Burrata
Half Baked Harvest
Simple Italian Pasta
The Clever Carrot
Get the Simple Italian Pasta recipe from The Clever Carrot
Spinach and Artichoke Linguine
How Sweet It Is
Get the Spinach and Artichoke Linguine recipe from How Sweet It Is
Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo
Damn Delicious
Get the Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo recipe from Damn Delicious
Creamy, Buttery Herbed Bucatini
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Creamy, Buttery Herbed Bucatini recipe from Half Baked Harvest
Penne With Spicy Pesto And Asparagus
The Clever Carrot
Get the Penne With Spicy Pesto And Asparagus recipe from The Clever Carrot
Spaghetti Carbonara
Damn Delicious
Get the Spaghetti Carbonara recipe from Damn Delicious
Brown Butter Chunky Basil Pesto Pasta
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Brown Butter Chunky Basil Pesto Pasta recipe from Half Baked Harvest
Zucchini Pasta
The Clever Carrot
Get the Zucchini Pasta recipe from The Clever Carrot
Avocado Pasta
Damn Delicious
Get the Avocado Pasta recipe from Damn Delicious
Spinach Tomato Tortellini
Damn Delicious
Get the Spinach Tomato Tortellini recipe from Damn Delicious
Lemon Ricotta Ravioli With Wilted Greens
The Clever Carrot
Heirloom Tomato Basil Chicken Parmesan Bolognese
Half Baked Harvest
Mediterranean Hummus Noodles With Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
Half Baked Harvest