Lidia Bastianich's Simple Method To Make Perfect Spicy Tomato Sauce - Exclusive

Spicy tomato sauce is all the rage right now — and for good reason. The simple upgrade provides a kick in your pasta dish, especially when paired with the classic rigatoni shape. Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich told Tasting Table exactly how to balance spiciness with a traditional tomato sauce for a boost in flavor. So, what's the key ingredient to a spicy tomato sauce?

This may not come as a shock to you, but the secret ingredient is tomatoes. "What's important about any tomato sauce is that you choose your tomatoes correctly — that the tomatoes are good for the sauce, that they are sweet, that they're not over-watery," Bastianich explained after highlighting her latest PBS special "Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Define Us." Don't worry about fresh tomatoes, the television host says, canned ones are just as tasty and effective. The restaurateur recommends using San Marzano or Roma tomatoes that you can stock up on at your local grocery store.

Peperoncino will speak for itself in a good tomato sauce

Once you've chosen the proper tomatoes, grab a food mill — never a food processor. "I don't put them in the processor because, in the processor, it accumulates too much air and loses a little bit of the redness," Bastianich continued to Tasting Table. Once your crushed tomatoes are complete, add a bit of water to the mixture, as well as peperoncino, Italy's version of hot peppers, for the spicy kick here.

"All you need for this marinara sauce to cook is 20 minutes, and you get the fresh taste. You can put [in] a branch of basil. I put [it in], and then I pull it out," Bastianich added. It's important to note that tomato and marinara sauce are actually different entities, with tomato sauce being thicker and creamier than a traditional, thinner marinara sauce. 

Although the cookbook author describes herself as a "traditionalist" when it comes to a spicy red sauce, she did say you can also use Tabasco to upgrade your spice game. It all comes down to your taste buds and how much heat you can handle.