The Seasoning Mistake You're Making With Pasta Sauce

It's a classic American staple: spaghetti with tomato sauce. Perhaps you've stood in the grocery aisle, in awe at the variety of jarred pasta sauces (or maybe you've read our sauce brand rankings) and thought, with all the good options out there, why attempt to make your own?

Apart from the clout you'll gain with friends and family when you say, "I made it myself," is making pasta sauce from scratch actually worth it? Bon Appétit had a panel of taste-testers come together to answer that very question. The cost was fairly equal (although they compared a homemade sauce to Barilla, which precludes Rao's loyalists), but the panelists had mixed reviews on whether it was worth the effort to make it yourself. 

But we think the reason so many prefer the jarred stuff over homemade — outside of the obvious ease of opening a jar and stirring vs standing over a hot stove — could come down to one big seasoning mistake.

Season your sauce properly for the best results

Rather than pulling out a store-bought "Italian spice" mixture (usually a blend of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram), Chef Apprentice School of the Arts says to consider the combination of fresh garlic, browned onions, fresh bell peppers, dried oregano, and dried basil for a stellar pasta sauce. You can also choose to go the fresh basil route, but you'll want to pair it with fresh oregano, too. Just make sure to add plenty more fresh herbs than you would dried, since the drying process packs more flavor into the herbs. 

You'll also want to be aware of how long your dried spices have been kicking around your cabinet if you opt to create your own custom blend. Spice brand McCormick says in ideal conditions dried spices like basil, oregano, and rosemary will last between one to three years maximum. The older they are, the duller their flavor will be.

Whatever route you choose to go, once you have the basics for your homemade tomato sauce down, be sure to check out some other tomato sauce recipes to decide which is your favorite. The possibilities are endless! Classic, spicy, briny, creamy, and smoky. Whatever you choose, a good tomato sauce will not disappoint. Buon appetito!