Jarred pasta sauce is a quick, easy and affordable way to get dinner on the table. And with all the variety out there from low salt to organic, it's healthy, too. If you're stuck in a ravioli rut, though, jarred sauce can get kind of boring.
To make mealtime more exciting, don't think of jarred sauce as dinner, think of it as an ingredient. Here are some helpful hacks, tips and tricks to jazz up your jarred sauce just in time for dinner.
1. Sautéed Vegetables
If you want to add depth and additional flavor to your marinara sauce, start with fresh ingredients, namely vegetables. Dice up some onions, tomatoes, peppers and carrots, and soften them in a bit of olive oil over medium heat.
Let the veggies cook down and season with a little salt. You can even go bold and add tomato paste to increase the acidity and tomato flavor of the sauce. When the veggies reach the right consistency, add your sauce and let it all cook together.
The fresh veggies will not only make your sauce look fresh, it will taste fresh, too.
2. Roasted Garlic
If all you've got in the house is garlic, you are good to go. True, some sauces come seasoned with garlic already, but fresh garlic will make the sauce pop. You can either choose to roast the whole bulb for a warm, smoky flavor or you can sauté some garlic in a small amount of olive oil and let it cook for just a few minutes, add your sauce and let it heat through.
Fresh garlic adds natural flavors, depth, and earthiness to anything, but it is especially delicious with tomato sauce. Your jarred sauce will immediately taste like homemade pasta sauce.
3. Seasoned Protein
Before you heat your sauce, brown some ground beef, ground turkey, or crumbled sausage in your sauce pot. The caramelized meat will add lots of flavor and will turn your jarred sauce into an easy bolognese that would make any Italian grandmother proud.
Just be sure to drain the fat that renders from the meat before adding your jarred sauce so that your final dish is grease-free. Unless you want the extra flavor and oomph, in which case you can simmer the sauce for 20 minutes or so.
You can turn your jarred pasta sauce into a rich and creamy sauce by simply adding about a half cup of milk or cream to the sauce just before serving. Cheeses like ricotta or cream cheese also melt away perfectly in the heat if you prefer a sauce that is even creamier.
Use a wooden spoon to mix the cheese into the sauce and stir to help it melt. Cheese will create a silkier sauce that coats the pasta perfectly.
5. Green and Leafy
Get an extra dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals by tossing in a handful of raw veggies. Fresh kale and spinach should be tossed in just a few minutes before your sauce is done for a bright bit of added flavor.
If you've got frozen chopped broccoli or peas, toss them into the sauce 10 minutes before dinnertime. They cook through instantly and add delicious flavor and texture, too.
6. Get Spicy
Adding just a few herbs and spices will easily elevate jarred pasta sauce to near homemade levels. You can go dried or fresh here. Just think about the flavors that work well with tomato sauce: oregano, basil, and thyme are all great add-ins for a rich and flavorful result.
A few pinches of red pepper flakes will add a bit of heat if you like things spicy. To finish, a few leaves of fresh basil or a few sprigs of fresh parsley will add some freshness, as well.
If you add sautéed vegetables or meat to your sauce, you have already created something delicious. If you want to add an extra layer of flavor, stir in a little stock or wine before adding the sauce.
The liquid will deglaze the pan by releasing any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Those bits are full of flavor and you don't want to lose them!
8. Simmer, Simmer
Yes, you can heat your sauce and leave it at that. But if you have the time, let the sauce simmer and cook down. Just 20 minutes of a slow simmer will concentrate the flavors of the sauce and thicken it up a bit.
Do you have any tricks for upgrading your own jar of pasta sauce? We would love to hear them, so reach out on our social channels!