Making a homemade dinner from scratch on a busy weeknight can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there are tricks of the trade that can make store-bought items taste a little more flavorful in a flash — because hey, there are hungry mouths to feed!
These easy tips will help you make a generic can of pasta sauce taste like you spent hours making it in the kitchen. You can combine these tips if you have time, or just do any one of them all their own to see a major difference in your spaghetti, lasagna, chicken parm and pasta dishes.
1. Don’t Forget to Heat It Up
Even if you’re going to be adding your sauce to noodles that are already cooked, take a few minutes to heat the sauce separately in a skillet before combining. The flavors will combine when heated together, so it’ll taste even better than if you poured it straight from the jar, according to Southern Living. You can multi-task and do this step as your noodles boil if you’re cooking on the stovetop or add the sauce to your dish while it’s still in the oven for those last couple moments of cook time.
2. Chock It Full Of Tomato Flavor
It might sound obvious, but adding more tomatoes to your tomato sauce will really amp up the flavor! Food52 suggests you add some tomato paste. Another option is to roast fresh tomatoes and pop ’em in! Either method will go a long way to boosting sauce with even more of that authentic, made-from-scratch flavor with little extra work.
3. Season With Fresh Basil
While your sauce is heating up, go ahead and add a few sprigs of fresh basil. That’s a flavor that would definitely go in your homemade sauce! Once basil is in the mix, your guests won’t be able to tell the difference. (And here are some other delicious basil recipes to put those leftover herbs to use!)
4. Add Butter
Famous Italian chef Marcella Hazan used butter as one of the main ingredients in her popular pasta sauce recipe — and if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for the rest of us. So, go ahead and add some butter to the skillet before heating up your sauce.
5. Reuse Pasta Water
If you’re preparing noodles with your dish, don’t just discard that pasta water! According to Cooking Light, pasta water soaks up some of the starch from the noodles as it cooks and it is also usually filled with salt. So, if you add a couple spoonfuls of the liquid to your sauce, it’ll taste extra-delicious. (Tip: This is also why you use pasta water when making cacio e pepe!)
6. Toss In Sauteed Veggies
There’s hardly any vegetable that doesn’t work with pasta sauce, so chop up whatever you’ve got on hand and give it a quick sauté. Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli can all make great additions to sauce straight from the jar. Fresh vegetables are fine, but don’t be afraid of raiding your freezer for frozen veggies, too!
7. Put That Wine To Use
If you’re having pasta for dinner, you’ve likely already cracked open a bottle of red wine. If that’s the case, go ahead and add a pour or two to your pasta sauce, according to Taste of Home. The red wine will help with added taste, as well as scraping up the browned bits from the pan to make sure they make their way into the sauce, too. If alcohol is not your thing, consider adding a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar for extra flavor.
With a few added ingredients, your jarred pasta sauce could taste homemade in no time! So get ready for a quick, easy and delicious dinner!