The holidays are coming up, and that means you’ll likely be spending some extra time in the kitchen. So before things get really hectic, it’s a good idea to prepare some simple and easy dinners, like pasta. Sure, it’s a nice idea to think that you’ll be able to make the freshest, most delicious tomato sauce using your grandma’s secret from-scratch recipe, but seeing that you can’t spend ALL your time in the kitchen, sometimes you’ve got to bring in help.
Like our beloved Ina Garten says, store-bought is fine! When it comes to things like tomato sauce, using a pre-made version as a base and jazzing it up with yummy extras is a great compromise that doesn’t require you to sacrifice flavor.
Check out these seven simple tricks for making a jar of tomato sauce taste so much better!
Garlic Pasta Sauce
Garlic, garlic, and more garlic.
One of the best and easiest ways to boost a jar of sauce is to add garlic to it. To do this, sauté two or three (or four or five, if you’re a garlic addict like me!) chopped garlic cloves with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a medium saucepan for two to three minutes. Then, add your sauce. Cooking the garlic a bit first helps to release its potent flavor, and simmering the ingredients together with this hack will make your sauce taste amazing!
Add ground meat.
Beef up your store-bought sauce by adding... ground beef! Creating a hearty meat sauce is sure to wow the fam and make them think you did this all on your own. Of course, you can substitute ground chicken or turkey for this hack, too. Just sauté one pound of ground meat with some chopped onion and garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the meat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until meat is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Then, add your sauce and allow to simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes! The mix of flavors here will knock your socks off.
Spinach Tomato Sauce
Throw in some greens.
Looking to healthify your sauce just a tad? Throw some leafy greens into the mix. Personally, I like spinach the best for this hack, but kale and chard also work. Just heat your sauce over medium heat in a sauce pan. Once it’s warm, take a handful or two of your selected greens and add to the pot, allowing it to wilt for a minute or two. Then remove and serve, that’s it!
You can also choose to add in other frozen vegetables like broccoli or peas by first sautéing them in your pan and then adding your sauce.
Heavy Cream Tomato Sauce
Make it creamy.
Water-based tomato sauce is great and all, but a creamy sauce is just the amount of decadence you need during the holiday season. Make your jarred sauce into a yummier version by adding a half cup of cream or whole milk during the last few minutes of simmering. This simple addition will turn your sauce into comfort food heaven. And if you want to thicken your sauce without adding dairy, a teaspoon of tomato paste will also give you a heartier result!
Red Pepper Flakes
Spice it up.
Whether or not you’re a fan of spicy foods, there are so many spices and herbs to choose from that will make a world of difference to the taste of your jarred tomato sauce. Simmer your sauce as usual and add a pinch to a teaspoon of dried herbs (you can also use chopped fresh herbs if you like!) such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, or basil. For a bit of a hotter kick, try adding some red pepper flakes to your sauce!
Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese — we’re not really against any type of cheese for this hack. If cheese is the way to your family’s heart, adding some to your jar of sauce will make your dish even more delish. Just simmer your sauce as usual and throw in your cheese during the last few minutes before serving.
Simmer Tomato Sauce
Simmer — no matter what!
It may be tempting to spoon your tomato sauce onto your lasagna noodles straight from the jar, but simmering it on the stove for ten to twenty minutes will enhance the taste of your sauce because it allows water to evaporate, leaving behind a heartier, more tomatoey base. Heating your sauce on the stove also helps to release the flavor of any herbs or spices that are in the sauce already, so make sure not to skip this crucial, flavor-boosting step!
With these easy hacks, you’ll never be bored with store-bought tomato sauce again. Even more importantly, you won’t have to worry that your family will shun you for disgracing grandma’s famous sauce.