Giada Shares Her Secret for the Best Red Sauce

updated May 24, 2019
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After all these years, one might assume that Giada De Laurentiis had given us all of her secrets to Italian cooking — through 15 years of cooking shows, almost a dozen books including a few best-sellers, and now her own lifestyle blog, Giadzy, she’s definitely given us a lot of good meals.

But with her latest series on the blog, Italian Food 101, she’s giving the 10 essential Italian dishes she believes every cook should know, and is breaking down what they are, why they’re important, and how to make it perfectly every time. The second recipe in the series, Parmesan Pomodoro seems on the surface to be a basic penne with red sauce, but upon closer inspection, it has not one, but two surprising ingredients.

It starts out like most sauces, with olive oil and garlic, but then when you add the tomatoes, instead of traditional Roma tomatoes, she has you add three cans of peeled cherry tomatoes — something I didn’t even realize was a thing you could buy! Thankfully Amazon proved me wrong. It makes sense, when you think about how gentle and sweet the flavor of the little tomatoes is and how the pulp-to-flesh ratio might change — this probably results in a sweeter, thicker sauce.

But the surprises don’t stop there: once you’ve added the tomatoes, basil, and carrots, she has you add a 1/2 pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds. You know, the ones you always dutifully put in the freezer because someday you’ll make stock with them? Forget soup, they’re about to impart their delightful cheesiness to your pasta sauce as they simmer for more than half an hour.

Post-simmer, she has you cool the sauce and then remove the rinds — now limp and empty of their flavor — before dressing the pasta with the sauce, some butter, and, of course, plenty more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Buon appetito!

Get Giada’s red sauce recipe: Basic Parmesan Pomodoro