Spagetti topped with sauce and cheese.
The Smoky Ingredient That Elevates Basic Spaghetti Sauce

The quickest way to take your spaghetti sauce from so-so to smoky and flavorful is to add in some tomato paste.

Charring the paste gives it a smoky dimension that makes it even better. This process of caramelizing tomato paste is called "pincer" in French cooking.

Start by warming the paste with a fat in a pan over medium heat. Cook the paste until it turns a darker maroon or brick-red color, stirring constantly so the paste doesn't burn.

Browned bits should form on the bottom of the pan, but no black and burnt parts. The browning will concentrate the flavor while reducing the metallic "tinned" taste.

This is the Maillard reaction, which gives the paste concentrated, savory, and sweet flavors while creating delicious browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

These bits are called "fond," and tomato paste creates a smoky fond when cooked. You can enhance the recipe further by cooking onions or garlic in the pan before adding the paste.