HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


tomato sauce for pasta when to add spices

using dry Italian spice mix for a long cooking sauce. when should it be added? early, late or in stages? By the way, contributors here are the best. Thanks for all the help, now, past and later.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I usually add herbs after I've been sauteing onions and garlic for a little while to slightly flavor the oil, and then add the tomatoes so the seasoning doesn't burn. I'm sure adding a pinch toward the end would work too!

    1. my (loose) rule of thumb is dried herbs in the beginning with the tomatoes, fresh herbs at the very end. Cooking fresh herbs for too long kills the flavour.

      1 Reply
      1. dried herbs do best when "fried" a bit in the oil in the beginning.

        1. What they said.... it also helps to crush them in your hands, first.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wyogal

            I've always heard this, and thought it was the stupidest suggestion ever. My train of thought was "They're dried herbs. They don't have any oils left in them, why is crushing them going to make a difference?!" I mean for YEARS I got annoyed whenever anyone said this.

            Then, in trying to win an argument based on this principle with my roommate, I made tow bowls of a quick butter and herb sauce, one with crushed herbs and one with them "whole" (or however they came out of the container.) I tried each and realized I was wrong - the crushing really does open up the flavor, although I don't quite understand why.

            Bottom line? I learned to stop being so egotistical and listen to more experienced cooks. And now I crush all my dried spices.

            1. re: Ditdah

              Awesome. really, awesome!
              When herbs are dried, it's the water that leaves them, not the oils, they remain, locked in their cells. Crushing them allows them to "break out."

            2. I have to agree with the above posters - I do a blend of all of them with dry herbs.

              1) crush in hand/fingers
              2) add to oil after sauteing onions to "fry" a little and infuse in oil
              3) add liquid/tomato and let stew
              4) while I prefer to add fresh herbs at the end, even if I didn't have fresh herbs I always add a dash of whatever dried herb I was using at the end

              1 Reply
              1. re: thimes

                I too would add them at the beginning and continue to taste throughout the cooking process to see what may have gotten "lost." But I would also be very careful about adding more dry at the end because with herbs like rosemary they can end up chew if not pulverized.

              2. When using dried herbs for a long-cooking sauce, it's fine to add at the beginning. Dry herbs need some time to reconstitute and impart their flavor to the sauce so I'd avoid adding near the end. (The exception is when using fresh herbs - in that case I recommend stirring into the sauce during the final 2-3 minutes to maximize the fresh-herb taste. Otherwise I find the flavors get muted a bit.)

                3 Replies
                1. re: mbCrispyBits

                  I learned that fresh herbs were added depending upon when they were "hard" or "soft" leafed. Hard leafed would be rosemary and sage which generally need more time to cook--springs of thyme would be included in that. Soft leafed--basil being the most popular one--needs to go in at the end like you said. I like to add it to the pasta after it has been with the sauce so it never really gets cooked.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Tend to agree, but I'd add that I like to hold back a small amount of even thyme, rosemary, and sage. Even with these guys, a hit of fresh herb toward the end does wonderful things. Bay leaf is probably the one exception.

                  2. re: mbCrispyBits

                    that makes a lot of sense. thanks, mbCrispyBits.

                  3. Folks, we have removed several responses to the OP that did not answer the question posed.

                    If you have some insight on when Italian spices should be added to the sauce during cooking, please chime in. Otherwise, please refrain from critiquing the OP's cooking style or choice of ingredients.