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Bland pasta, why?

I'm in a bit of a cooking slump. In a rental for the summer while we remodel our home. Maybe this has something to do with it. What's funny is we've also had quite a few terrible meals at restaurants, too.

My biggest issue this week was totally bland pasta dishes. Twice! The first was roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic, chicken, basil, olive oil. The second was more of a refrigerator pasta (whatever I had went into it). The only thing these pasta dishes had in common was using bow tie pasta (not a fan, but family likes it). I salted the pasta water well, used plenty of grated parm, fresh ingredients.

Any suggestions?

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  1. More salt in the sauce? Some heat? How early do you add the basil? If it's fresh, you want to put it in just before serving the pasta, it wilts fast and loses its flavor quickly.

    Do you finish the pasta in the sauce?

    1 Reply
    1. re: linguafood

      Those are the things I would have listed also. More salt, crushed red pepper flakes. I also like parsley, again, as you say, at the end.

    2. Maybe it's just your mood? What did the others think of it?

      1. Salt, yes. No heat, that could add a layer for sure. Fresh basil at the end. Add the pasta to the sauce and thin with a little pasta water and olive oil.

        Family ate it, but agreed that it wasn't my usual. It could certainly be my mood, no doubt it hasn't been an easy summer.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pagesinthesun

          Adding some pasta water is only done if it's too "tight." I almost never find mine needs it. Also in the summer I used uncooked tomatoes. I basically do a totally uncooked sauce.

        2. In addition to heat (as in a few red pepper flakes and a good grinding of black pepper), your pasta might need some acid.. A good squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up.

          1. What comes to mind is not that you aren't using enough ingredients but that you may be using too many of the wrong ones. Start with the pasta. Is it a topnotch brand or from the supermarket bargain shelf? Are the tomatoes delicious on their own? Is the garlic fresh? and the basil just picked? Is the oil beautifully fragrant extra virgin? Skip the chicken. The bowtie shape isn't the problem, but you need to use good ones. Use plenty of oil. Others have mentioned salt, quite rightly. Some coarsely chopped anchovy fillets would be tasty and maybe capers. With roasted tomatoes, you can use any fresh herb and plenty of cheese -- pecorino romano if you're using garlic, parmigiano-reggiano without garlic -- and make sure the cheese is freshly grated.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mbfant

              Another thought: is there enough sauce for the amount of pasta?

            2. I don't really care for bowtie pasta either, it's too thick and heavy, and doesn't hold sauces very well.

              One thing a food blogger/chef I follow always suggests to do is wait until the steam stops coming off the pasta before you add the sauce to it - so the excess water doesn't dilute the sauce and leave puddles on the plate.

              You could also try adding something acidic to the sauce, such as a balsamic vinegar, to give it some tartness. If the tomatoes themselves were bland to begin with though, there's only so much you can do to doctor them up.

              You could also try cooking the pasta itself in chicken stock. Or maybe try a pesto-type sauce for the pasta instead.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Atomic76

                I made a cold pasta salad that called for boiling the orzo in veggie broth. It gave it a good subtle flavor.

              2. Adding a bit of pesto will liven up most pasta dishes.

                1. I really think it has more to do with your situation than the food. Interesting stuff:

                  1. My go to ingredients for a bland sauce are, in no particular order, dry white wine, capers, red pepper flakes, salt ( grey, as a finish), and Romano.

                    1. I am probably full of hot air, but it might be your pasta shape. The (relatively) flat shape of the farfalle bow ties makes it nice for soups and baked casseroles, but I don't love it even for pasta salads, because it doesn't "hold" sauces as well as I'd like. My faves are shells with lines, or rigatoni with lines, to hold every bit of oil, tomato sauce, spices, etc.

                      This could be all in my head, in which case, ignore me.
                      ETA....I just read Atomic's post! Sorry! He said it first!