Whether you are going for a simple tomato spaghetti sauce or an elaborate bolognese ragu, everyone has made a sauce that is disappointing upon tasting it. Why do pasta sauces come out bland and what can we do about it?
A bland spaghetti sauce can be down to not using enough salt, using poor-quality canned tomatoes, or not simmering the sauce long enough. To add extra flavor try adding garlic, onion, herbs, chili, olives, vegetables, or pancetta.
Some classic tomato-based Italian sauces you can try are Amatriciana, Puttanesca, or Bolognese which I’ve given details for below.
But also often less is more when it comes to pasta sauce – stick to quality ingredients and let them do the talking.
I have pulled together all my favorite tips to help you make a better sauce in this post. Read on to find out how to quickly add some flavor back to your tasteless spaghetti sauce (or make a better one in the first place).
My Spaghetti Sauce Is Bland – What Have I done Wrong?
If your sauce is bland, the first thing to do is check your seasoning. Have you added enough salt? Salt is an important flavor enhancer. Sometimes we can be a little shy with the salt shaker, but it really is essential for bringing out all the other flavors in your sauce.
If you’re worried about making it too salty, start with a large pinch and then add more to taste – go slow here as you can ruin your sauce.
You don’t want to add too much and make it taste “salty” so if you’ve added salt and your sauce still tastes bland, other things may be the culprit. This includes using subpar ingredients, particularly your canned tomatoes.
It may also be that you haven’t added some garlic or herbs, or perhaps you just need to simmer the sauce a bit longer to further concentrate the flavors. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:
- Canned Tomatoes – If you’re using canned tomatoes, make sure you’re using good-quality whole plum tomatoes preferably from Italy. Spending a little more will make a big difference to the taste.
- Simmering – Perhaps the most important tip of all is to make sure you let your sauce simmer for long enough. It concentrates and sweetens – 30 minutes minimum but 1 hour preferably.
- Garlic – Another key ingredient in spaghetti sauce is garlic. It adds that classic Italian taste. I would recommend using 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, for every batch of sauce you make.
- Herbs – Fresh and dry are both good, but if you’re using dried ones, make sure they’re not past their use-by date. A good rule is to use about 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh.
How Do You Fix Tasteless Spaghetti Sauce?
If your sauce is already made and you find it’s tasting a bit bland, there are a few things you can do to try to fix it.
How To Fix It Now
The number one thing is to try adding more salt, as we’ve already discussed. If you’re worried about making it too salty, add it a little at a time and taste as you go until it’s to your liking.
Another quick fix is to add some depth by adding tomato paste. A teaspoon or two will help to brighten up the flavors.
If you have any fresh herbs on hand, adding a handful of chopped parsley or basil will also give your sauce an instant taste kick.
Add Depth With More Ingredients
Another way to make a bland sauce tastier is to add more ingredients. This could include things like onions, olives, pancetta, Italian sausage, anchovies, chili flakes, or red wine.
All of these will help to add depth and complexity to your sauce and make it much more interesting to eat. There are several well-known variations you could try:
- Amatriciana – This is a classic sauce from the Campania region of Italy that includes pancetta, chili flakes, and red wine.
- Puttanesca – This sauce originates from Naples and traditionally contains olives, capers, and anchovies.
- Bolognese – This rich meat sauce from Bologna typically includes beef, pork, pancetta, carrots, celery, and red wine.
Does Simmering Spaghetti Sauce Make It Taste Better?
One of the easiest (and simplest) things you can do to make your sauce taste a lot better is to keep it simmering for longer.
I would recommend simmering your sauce for at least 30 minutes, but if you have the time, an hour or even longer is even better. This will allow all the flavors to come together and really develop nicely. Simmering the sauce will also help to thicken it up, giving it a richer texture.
If you find your sauce is getting a bit too thick as it simmers, you can add a little water to thin it out. Keep sampling it along the way so you know when it’s reached the perfect balance of taste and texture.
Can You Add Spices To Spaghetti Sauce?
If you want to give your sauce an extra flavor boost, you can certainly add some spices. Ground black pepper, paprika, coriander, anise, cumin, and chili flakes are all great options.
In fact, some pasta sauce recipes call for certain spices to be added anyway, such as the arrabbiata and amatriciana sauces. Be careful with heavy spices like cumin as this can make it taste like a curry instead.
Start with a small amount and taste as you go until it’s just right. You don’t want to overdo it as this could make the sauce taste very different and too harsh.
How To Spice Up Spaghetti Sauce From A Jar Or Can
If you’re using jarred or canned sauce as a base, there are still plenty of ways to add more flavor.
One option is to add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. This will give the sauce a richer taste and also help to thicken it up.
Another idea is to quickly sauté some onions and garlic in olive oil and then add them to the sauce. This will really boost the flavor and make it taste more homemade.
You could also try adding some fresh or canned diced tomatoes, which will help to brighten up the flavors. If you want a bit of heat, you could add a pinch of chili flakes or some chopped fresh chili peppers.
Fresh herbs like basil are a great final topping too.
- Related article: 16 Things To Add To Spaghetti When You Don’t Have Sauce
If you find yourself asking why your spaghetti sauce tastes so bland, you now know how to fix it.
Start by using simple, quality ingredients and simmering the sauce for a longer period of time. You could also add additional ingredients to give the sauce more depth, or spice it up with some fresh herbs or spices.
If you’re using a cheap jar of sauce from the store, try adding some tomato paste, sautéed onions, garlic, or fresh diced tomatoes. With a few simple additions, you can transform a boring sauce into something really special.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to make a bland sauce more interesting. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to end up with a delicious spaghetti sauce that your family and friends will love.
Have any questions? Ask me in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.
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