Making mediocre spaghetti is easy; making spaghetti that knocks your socks off is trickier. There are plenty of ways to enhance your pasta, from saving the pasta water to adding sprinkles of cinnamon. But what can be done about a thin, bland sauce?
Beefing up spaghetti sauce is a finicky process. Adding more herbs, spices, or salt can become overpowering. On the other hand, adding more meat makes the dish heavier and fattier—not necessarily more flavorful.
So, what’s the alternative for a spaghetti sauce that’s thick but not dense, flavorful, but not overwhelming? As it turns out, the answer was hiding on the pantry shelf.
The Perfect Spaghetti Sauce
Classic spaghetti and meat sauce is a lot like pizza. With its universal combo of noodles, meat, and tomatoes, even just using boxed pasta and jarred sauce produces relatively tolerable results. Still, it isn’t difficult to discern so-so spaghetti from superb.
The best spaghetti sauces cling to the pasta instead of sliding off to the bottom of the plate. The consistency is thick enough to feel hearty but runny enough to not feel dense or chewy. Ideally, there would be no watery orange run-off from a too-liquidy sauce. And finally, it should be bold, aromatic, and flavorful.
Suddenly, spaghetti doesn’t sound so simple. Sure, you could suffer through bland, so-so spaghetti—it’ll still hit the spot. But luckily, the difference between good sauce and amazing sauce is a single ingredient tossed in with the tomatoes.
Beef Up Your Pasta With No Extra Meat
Bouillon cubes are the unsung heroes of the kitchen. These small-but-mighty cubes are made of dehydrated stock. Chicken, beef, or vegetable bouillon adds intense flavor to a meal without introducing too much liquid—making them excellent additions to sauces.
Beef and chicken bouillon are not vegetarian-friendly. However, they typically don’t add enough meatiness to bother sensitive stomachs. So, if you prefer less meat but are unopposed to eating animal products, you can likely add bouillon cubes to your dish with little to no problem.
Bouillon cubes are also considerably cheaper than actual meat. When stored properly, bouillon cubes will last for about two years. Additionally, these powerful cubes have far fewer calories and fat than extra meat or tomato paste.
Adding bouillon cubes to your usual spaghetti sauce recipe is easy, but keep in mind the bouillon’s sodium levels. Be prepared to use a little less salt than you’re used to, and taste as you cook. Otherwise, simply toss in 3-4 cubes per two servings when adding the tomato sauce. The cubes do the rest.
Everything else that makes your pasta sauce yours—red wine, herbs, and so on—can stay the same. But thanks to the bouillon cubes, your pasta will have graduated from “relatively tolerable” to “irresistibly delicious.”