If you’re struggling with how to make pasta less boring, or find that you’re looking up ’how to make pasta taste better’, then this article is for you! In it, I’m going to be covering the three main steps you can take to change your pasta for the better.
We’ll be hitting all the spots with along with handy tips, advice, and suggestions on what to do and use. So, ready to ditch the mac and cheese for that fancy date? Then lets get started!
Table of Contents
- Why Is My Pasta Tasteless?
- How Can I Make Bland Pasta Taste Better?
- How Do You Make Pasta Less Boring – What To Put In Spaghetti Sauce To Make It Taste Better
- What Else Can You Put On Pasta Besides Sauce?
- More Ideas On How To Change Up Your Pasta
- Shortcuts To Elevating Your Pasta – Only Easy Methods!
- How To Make Pasta Taste Good Without Sauce
- Cooking Methods – FAQs
- Improving Your Pasta – Which Method Is Best
Why Is My Pasta Tasteless?
If you find yourself asking ’why is my pasta not tasty?’, you might be looking in the wrong places to improve.
Before anything else, it’s important to understand what makes good pasta. However, because pasta dishes are so varied, there’s not ’one secret’ that will magically fix your pasta.
For that reason, I’ve added a list of general guidelines you can follow below.
Tips And Tricks On Making Good Pasta
- Use Good Quality Pasta
- This is especially important if you’re using gluten-free pasta as it can throw a bit of a curveball in the cooking process. Good pasta will be more yellow than white, and shouldn’t have any cracks, white spots, or black specks. It won’t be very translucent and it shouldn’t excessively cloud the water when boiling.
- Don’t Overcook It
- This one… is a little subjective. As a seasoned al dente hater (I like my carbs mushy like baby food, oops!) I can confidently tell you that your personal taste matters more than tradition when you’re trying to enjoy a dish solo. Still, many prefer the al dente texture when cooking pasta – and no one likes water-bloated ravioli – so make sure not to overcook it. Well, at least not too much.
- Season Well And At The Appropriate Time
- To avoid a flavorless pasta, you should season well with some variation of salt, black pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, ‘Italian seasoning’, bay leaves, or even a parmesan rind! Also be sure to add some of these seasonings – especially when fresh – a little later on in the cooking process. This will save you from cooking off the flavors of the more delicate herbs.
- Have Your Sauce Ready
- If you’re using sauce in our dish, one of the most important steps is to add your pasta to the sauce quickly, while both are still hot. If you made al dente pasta, this will cook it the rest of the way to what most people consider the absolute perfect consistency. And if you didn’t, it will prevent your pasta from cooking into absolute mush in standing hot water. Doing this also leaves you with a good chance of making a better dish overall – when you add pasta quickly without rinsing it, the starch left on it will allow the sauce adhere well, meaning flavor in every mouthful.
- Sauce Tips
- If you’re using an overly acidic ingredient like tomato passata, make sure to cut the acidity by adding a little sugar or milk. If a thick sauce is desirable, add a little of your pasta cooking water to the sauce – the starch in this will thicken up your sauce, and will help it to stick to your pasta.
How Can I Make Bland Pasta Taste Better?
One of the easiest ways, hands down, to make your pasta taste better is by experimenting with your sauce. If you find your pasta to be bland, it is definitely worth examining how you can deepen the flavors of your sauce. So, here’s a list of herbs you should consider adding to your pasta sauce that do just that!
Seasoning Sauces: What Should I Add To My Pasta Sauce?
What can you season pasta with:
- Pre-made Italian seasoning
- Black pepper
- Chili flakes
- Garlic, (sautéed or roasted and mashed into paste)
- Onion (caramelize for a twist) or use some sweeter Spanish onions.
- Parmesan rind
- Bay leaves
- Tomato paste
How Do You Make Pasta Less Boring – What To Put In Spaghetti Sauce To Make It Taste Better
To brighten up your pasta with yet another sauce based-solution, try creating your own sauce recipe. There are so many different things you can use to make pasta sauce, so pull from your favorite recipes and experiment! I’ve added in these two short videos on unconventional pasta sauces as examples. The first one is for a smooth pasta sauce made from vegetables! This hidden veggie pasta sauce is definitely worth a shot if youre not a fan of textured sauce, or are catering to picky eaters.
If you’re looking for a more traditional red tomato sauce, this hearty marinara sauce could also serve as a good source to pull from. Alternatively, if you want a white sauce, try drawing some inspiration from the cheesy garlic sauce recipe I’ve added below. I found it quite different from other pasta sauces in that it’s quite thin, yet is still delightfully creamy and flavorful.
If you’re more concerned with a lack of diverse flavors than the sauce of your pasta, you may be wondering what to add to pasta to make it taste better. The good news is that there are all sorts of ingredients you can add to your pasta! For your convenience I’ll be listing these below, as well as exploring what sides might go well with your pasta.
What Else Can You Put On Pasta Besides Sauce?
Fortunately, there are plenty of different things you can do to liven up a pasta that DON’T involve messing with the sauce. For example, looking for something a little more umami? Try experimenting with seafood! Its a great way to use up leftovers like reheated calamari or frozen shrimp.
Alternatively, try out what you’ve already got stocked in the pantry – use a little anchovy paste (or a substitute)! If you’d prefer to follow a readymade recipe, check out my lobster ravioli sauce recipe.
What To Add To Pasta
|Veggies And Adjacent||Protein|
|Sweet bell peppers||Boiled quail eggs|
|Cauliflower||Cured egg yolk|
|Butternut squash||Crispy tofu|
|Tomatoes – roasted whole or cubed||Legumes like chickpeas|
|Eggplant||Pork – tender and shredded or cubed|
|Cucumber||Beef – tender and shredded or cubed|
|Mushrooms||Seafood like calamari, shrimp, salmon, oysters, etc|
|Carrots (very good in a sauce)||Tender chicken breast for a side or cubed|
If you’re not too keen on adding more ingredients into your pasta, I made a similar list of sides that you can use instead! Check under the ’Shortcuts To Elevating Your Pasta’ section.
More Ideas On How To Change Up Your Pasta
If you’re still stuck on what to do, using different types of pasta or making different pasta dishes is a great way to learn more. This list, including mostly traditional Italian pasta dishes is already extensive – but not exhaustive. There are all sorts of takes on pasta from all across the world – if the Italian ones look intimidating, again, just wing it and make your own!
Speaking of making your own, did you know that its not as difficult as it looks to make fresh pasta from scratch – even if you don’t have a machine?
This is a fun way to mix up and experiment with your pasta – you could even add some herbs in the dough itself for a change! Not to mention, it’s a great way to impress your friends. Home cook Danny Freeman also has some great videos on having fun with different pasta designs and colors if you’re looking for a visual change.
Here’s a tutorial of his on the Rachael Ray show demonstrating how you can make succulent ravioli!
Finally, another way to zhoosh up that pasta is by using ingredients you normally wouldn’t – for example, you can switch out cow’s cheese with goat’s for a tangier, gamier flavor. I’ve added in a video below of this viral ’TikTok pasta’ that dominated the platform earlier. This easy to make pasta bake uses feta (sheep’s cheese) and tomatoes as a base for your pasta. You can either blend and strain the roasted veggies for a smooth sauce, or leave them whole and roughly ’mushed’ for a little texture and flavor on plain or sauceless pasta.
Shortcuts To Elevating Your Pasta – Only Easy Methods!
Sides That Go Well With Pasta
- Sweet Roasted Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Stuffed bell peppers are a great addition to any vegetable based pasta sauce. The sweetness perfectly compliments the tangy tomatoes and brings out the other flavors in the dish.
- Gamey Venison
- Venison is the perfect side for that aforementioned ’fancy date night pasta’. The rich, gamey flavor will enhance any pasta. However, its best to avoid heavily tomato-based recipes with this as these two flavors together can be overpowering. If you live in the UK (or some parts of America), there is an added benefit to eating wild venison. As the deer population is unchecked due to the absence of natural predators, consuming wild venison can help to balance out the local ecosystem – especially the flora, and, consequently, insect life.
- Blank Alla Parmigiana
- Chicken, beef, or pork alla parmigiana can be the perfect side to a mild, creamy sauce like carbonara or mascarpone pasta. Pairing this with an excessively cheesy/sharp or tangy pasta won’t work super well as they will, again, overpower each other.
- Buttery Kiev
- Chicken kiev is probably the easiest option on here – but doesn’t skip out on taste! This side dish suits virtually all types of pasta dishes because of its mild, yet delicious, flavors. For pasta, I would recommend a garlic butter and herb kiev. You can either buy ready-made and just pop it in the oven, or make your own!
How To Improve Pasta Sauce From A Jar
It has oft been said that sauce is what makes or breaks a pasta – something that true of many cases. Whether its a marinara sauce or some other pasta sauce, it can be a lot more convenient to just pack it in and buy a jar. If you decide to do so, but still want to add that little extra oomph, try adding some of these to elevate your sauce! In the event that you’re using pre-made pizza sauce for your pasta, be sure to season it well and follow these guidelines closely.
- Roasted Garlic Paste
- Roast some garlic and grind it up to add some amazing flavor – and even a little subtle texture – to your pasta sauce.
- Balance The Acidity
- Most store-bought tomato sauces will already have their acidity cut, but if it’s still not up to where you’d like just add some sugar or milk to taste.
- Blend Fruit And Veg
- If you need to make that sauce stretch out a little bit more, roast (or boil) some fruit and veg. Sweet ingredients like bell peppers, carrots, and tomatoes do particularly well. Once roasted, simply blend and strain before adding to your sauce!
- Add Onions
- Onions, like garlic, are great for adding flavor and texture. Roughly chop and sweat some onions if you want to shake up that smooth sauce. To go that extra mile, try caramelising them.
- Add Different Cheeses
- This one is for all the white and cheese sauce enjoyers – add in some extra cheese to intensify the flavors in your sauce. Mascarpone and a generous helping of bacon work amazingly for this.
How To Make Pasta Taste Good Without Sauce
Wondering what to put on plain pasta? There’s a bounty of options to choose from! I’ll be listing some here, and also be adding some advice on what you can do to make pasta taste god without sauce.
- Boil n’ Mash
- Boiling your spaghetti is an often overlooked step when making pasta. Consequently, many people end up with flavorless pasta. To avoid this, make your pasta water as salty as the sea and consider boiling a garlic clove or two in it. That way, after your pasta is done, it won’t be so bland. Additionally, you can mash remove the clove used and mash it before mixing with the pasta for some additional flavor.
- Add Fats
- Fats are incredibly important when it comes to pasta! Add some olive oil or better and herbs to liven up that plain pasta.
- Traditional Ingredients
- Butter, eggs, and parmesan can make a wonderful base for your plain(ish) pasta. Follow this recipe by Mom’s Kitchen handbook for some tasty sauceless pasta!
- Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
- Whether its tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, peas, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, or broccoli, fruit n’ veg can elevate any plain pasta dish. You can fry them in butter or slowly roast them with herbs for a delicious, flavorful pasta.
- Pesto! Or Herbs
- Running low on ingredients? Most of us have some dried herbs tucked away in the larder! Sprinkle some parsley and basil on your pasta to avoid blandness. If you have it, pesto is a wonderful way to enjoy plain pasta too!
- Cheese n’ Protein
- Add a little tanginess to your pasta with some sharp or unusual cheese. Gorgonzola, mozzarella or burrata, and parmesan are all great choices. For protein, you can add legumes like black beans or chickpeas, seafood, poultry, or red meat!
Cooking Methods – FAQs
Adding salt to your pasta will definitely improve the taste. However, many people underestimate just how much salt pasta really needs. To salt your pasta water thoroughly enough, follow a ratio of 1:1:4. For every 1 pound of pasta, add a tablespoon of salt. Make sure to cook your pasta in 4 quarts of boiling water for every 1 pound.
To flavor your boiling pasta, put in enough salt so that your pasta ‘tastes like the sea’. You can also throw in a couple of garlic cloves and crush them over your pasta after boiling. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use herbs while boiling! A bay leaf or two never hurt anybody.
To make pasta taste more similarly to how it does in a restaurant, you can try to replicate the methods used. Be warned, however, that most methods are not very efficient for home cooks. To make your pasta more restaurant-like, you can rest your spaghetti in ice water before mixing with sauce, time the making of the sauce and the pasta perfectly or make the sauce beforehand to let the flavors mix. Even using more fats is a good idea!
Main difference is in the methods used, which are different due top the equipment and ingredients that professional chefs have access to. Ice water is generally used to rest the pasta once al dente, which will cool it so it can cook again when served with sauce. The end result will leave the perfect amount of starch on the pasta. As restaurants use food in bulk, they’re more likely to have fresher ingredients. In my article on keeping spaghetti noodles from sticking , I went into detail on how chefs cook pasta.
Revitalizing dry refrigerated pasta is easier than it looks, provided you have some spare ingredients in the fridge. I like to put my pasta in a pan with as much sauce as i can scrape from it’s container, then slowly heat it while adding other ingredients. For a tomato sauce, add a little tomato paste or passata, or any leftover pre-made sauce. If you need to, you can even add a little water! For a white or cheese pasta, heat it for even less and add a touch of heavy cream, milk, or cheese. After moistening your pasta, check the flavor and re-season if necessary.
Improving Your Pasta – Which Method Is Best
Pasta is a dish with an absolutely insane amount of variation, not just across cultures, but even regionally! This means that there is an abundance of different recipes and techniques you can use to make pasta, and they will all yield different results. And, consequently, it makes my job difficult in finding some universal method that will make all pasta dishes better. However, there are still some – admittedly, not many – universal tips you can follow for a good pasta. So next time you’re at the stove, remember to absolutely drown that boiling pasta with salt!