Before Food Network icon Bobby Flay sautés tomatoes for his pasta sauce, he mashes them with a potato masher. This kitchen tool purposefully keeps his tomatoes chunky — a move that not all chefs endorse. Of course, after more than 30 years in the business, Flay is not afraid to go his own way.
For example, Flay also sprinkles in sugar, not a sanctioned ingredient that most chefs agree you should add to your tomato sauce. However, while the friendly banter over how to best sweeten pasta sauce is an ongoing culinary debate, the rule of thumb on chunky or smooth sauce has more of an overarching standard. Just do not ask Flay to play by those rules.
According to The New York Times, Oretta Zanini de Vita, author of "Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way," makes the case that a chunky sauce should be served on short, thick pasta, preferably the kind that has been bent into a cup shape perfect for scooping up thick liquid. By contrast, Flay loves chunky sauces, even with long pasta. During a demonstration with Food & Wine in Aspen, in which he prepared squid ink fettuccine, Flay explained that a chunky sauce delivers variability in texture. "I want my tomato sauce to have rusticity and chunkiness because it adds contrast and texture to the final dish. You need those extra textures coming through," Flay says.
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Chunky Or Smooth, Avoid These Pasta Sauce Mistakes
Whether you prefer Flay's chunky sauce for texture or abide by the more conventional smooth sauce and pasta pairings, there are several mistakes to avoid when making your own sauce. First, always use quality ingredients. Canned tomatoes are fine, but taste-test them after opening. If they are flavorful and sweet, your sauce will be just as delicious.
Also, avoid over-simmering your marinara. Italian for "mariner's style"(likely named for Italian fishermen needing to whip together a simple sauce on their boats, adding seaweed for salt), marinara should not be confused with other more complicated, long-simmering pasta sauces. Restaurateur Frank Prisinzano told The New York Times, "Marinara, after 25 minutes, it's dead." Flay concurs and keeps his sauce simmer time to 30 minutes.
Finally, toss your pasta in with your sauce, not the other way around. This is one reason why pasta sauces taste better in restaurants. Pros know to let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce for a few minutes before plating.
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