Massimo Bruno’s Tips for Pasta and Sauce Pairing

Massimo sharing his passion for classic pasta dishes with Ben Mulroney and Lindsey Deluce

CUCINATO collaborator Massimo Bruno was back on CTV Your Morning show last week, sharing advice on pasta and sauce pairing with Ben Mulroney and Lindsey Deluce. It’s a deceptively simple subject many non-Italians take for granted – until they speak with a passionate, native pasta eater like Massimo!

Below is a quick recap of Massimo’s tips. If you’d like to see the segment, you’ll find it here on

1. Avoid over-saucing

If your noodles are swimming in liquid or there’s a pool of sauce left in the bowl after the pasta’s been eaten, you are guilty of over-saucing. For Italians, sugo is a condiment – not a soup!

2. Don’t underwhelm your ragù

Spaghetti bolognese is a common North American dish you won’t find in Italy, because the noodles are too light, delicate and thin to carry a ragù. Italians pair this hearty sauce with egg noodles (tagliatelle or fettuccine) that are heavier and more coarse in texture (so the ragù adheres better).  Spaghetti on the other hand pairs with lighter sauces: al pomodoro, alle vongole, aglio e olio.

3. Don’t overwhelm your stuffed pasta

The whole point of a stuffed pasta is the delicious flavour packed inside, so you don’t want to smother it with a heavy sauces that will compete for your attention. That’s why tortellini is typically served in a light brodo and ravioli is paired with simple, uncomplicated sauces such as ai funghi, pomodoro or burro.

4. Learn how do they do it in Italy

Italian dishes tend to be traditional and regional – and pasta and sauce pairings are no exception. So if you’re making a pasta with rapini you’ll go with orecchiette because that’s the classic dish from Puglia. Like buccatini all’amatriciana and spaghetti alla carbonara – typical dishes from the region of Lazio. When in doubt these standards are the best place to start.

5. Salt your pasta water generously

They say pasta water should taste like sea water. Salt is what gives the pasta flavour, so don’t skimp out! If quanto basta isn’t a precise enough measure for you, Cucina Italiana Magazine suggests 7 grams of salt per litre of water for every 100 grams of pasta.

6. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce

Heat your sauce in a skillet while the pasta is cooking (not too much – just enough for the quantity of pasta you are making). A minute or two before the pasta is cooked, scoop it into the sauce with a slotted spoon or pair of tongs, and gently stir. Scoop a bit of pasta water as the sauce thickens – it’s a nice way to add a little starchy flavour. Why do we finish pasta in the sauce instead of draining it fully cooked? To absorb the flavour of the sauce and make it more adherent to the noodles.

That’s it – now vai a cucinare! If you have any questions or comments for Massimo use the Comments section below.

To check out Massimo’s cooking classes, video recipes, supper clubs and culinary tours, visit



2 thoughts on “Massimo Bruno’s Tips for Pasta and Sauce Pairing

  1. Stirring pasta during cooking is crucial! Skip this step and you’re left with a giant clump of noodles that are stuck together. BTW, I like garlic french baguette with my pasta 🙂

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