Why Bobby Flay Opts For A Chunky Tomato Sauce For Pasta

Bobby Flay may seem like an all-around cooking guru, and of course he is, but one of his biggest passions is Italian food. As a lover of all things Italy, Flay has spent years traveling around the Mediterranean food mecca, specifically the Amalfi Coast, which served as the inspiration for his first Italian restaurant, Amalfi, in Las Vegas. He even hosted a Food Network travel show with Italian cooking star Giada De Laurentiis where they traveled through Rome and Tuscany together. Needless to say, the man knows his pasta and takes it very seriously.

Flay has plenty of opinions on sauce, from being okay with putting a little sugar in it to maintain the tomatoes' acidity to shortening the cooking time to keep the fruits bright and fresh, and one key for him is keeping his sauce chunky to add texture. "I want my tomato sauce to have rusticity and chunkiness because it adds contrast and texture to the final dish," said Flay during a demonstration with Food & Wine in Aspen. 

The chef likes to do this by crushing the contents of a 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes with a potato masher, although it's perfectly easy to just use your hands as well. While smooth tomato sauce can be plenty tasty, it's extra work and mess to break out a food processor or blender to purée it, and chunky tomato sauce has a true home-cooked feel with just as much flavor.

How to make chunky tomato sauce

The combination of shorter cooking time and less work makes chunky tomato sauce the perfect accompaniment to an easy and delicious dinner. Bobby Flay only cooks his sauce for about 30 minutes, and he uses whole peeled tomatoes. 

Even when opting for a chunky tomato sauce you should stick with whole canned tomatoes instead of finely cut cubes because diced tomatoes are packaged with chemicals that help them retain their shape. This means that they won't break down into a nice sauce, while whole peeled tomatoes that are simply chopped or crushed will form a better sauce base while still retaining the chunkiness you want during a short cook. A little bit of fat from olive oil or butter, some parmesan for extra umami flavor, and salt is all you need to add at the end for a satisfying, hearty sauce.

Chunky tomato sauce pairs well with all kinds of classic pasta dishes, but it works best in simple recipes with few other ingredients where the sauce itself is the star of the show. Opt for tube-shaped pasta like penne or rigatoni that will capture chunky sauce better, as less smooth sauces are prone to sliding off spaghetti or linguine. Pasta sauce doesn't need to be fancy, complex, or time-consuming. As Flay shows us, sometimes the simplest way to make something is also the best, even for a famous chef.