Try this 1-Ingredient upgrade for better store-bought tomato sauce

Red pasta sauce simmers on pan

Store-bought tomato sauce is a popular pantry staple in many households, and it comes in handy when you’re making pasta dishes, soups, or even homemade pizzas. I always have some on hand to season with oregano and ladle over my baked pizza-stuffed bell peppers, which are capped with melty mozzarella and crisped-up pepperoni. These have become a regular in my work-from-home lunch rotation.

The store-bought stuff isn’t going to be as flavorful as a homemade sauce that slowly simmers, with garlic and basil flavors adding depth and homegrown tomatoes amping up the flavor. But grabbing for a jar works in a pinch when you’ve got to make a quick meal.

So, it piqued my attention when I saw a one-ingredient addition that promises to level up jars of regular old tomato sauce. Even better, it’s something many of us already have around. Dietitian Sara Haas shared on Simply Recipes that she adds a little bit of butter to jarred tomato sauce to elevate it.

a block of butter

MORE: The secret that will help your sauce cling to your pasta

Add a tablespoon or two of butter when you’re simmering store-bought pasta sauce, recommends dietitian Sara Haas. The butter adds to the flavor.

“Butter works because it adds body to the sauce, making it feel more luxurious and creamy,” she wrote. “The flavor is subtle and balances the natural acidity of the tomatoes. Butter can turn any store-bought pasta sauce into something a little more special.”

You don’t want to go too overboard with the butter. Haas explains that just a tablespoon or two will do for a 24-ounce jar of tomato sauce, such as Rao’s popular marinara. If you’re keeping tabs on sodium, unsalted butter is the way to go.

Family makes pasta dish with Rao's sauce

$20 for 3-pack at Walmart

When you’re heating up your sauce on the stove, just add in your pats of butter. Let them melt and stir the butter into your sauce.

I love the idea of a richer tomato sauce with butter! But there are other tricks to make jarred sauce tastier, too.

One of my other tricks for fancifying store-bought sauce or soup is to add a tablespoon or two of sour cream. It thickens everything up and adds a nice tang and some extra flavor. Tasting Table agrees, noting that the fact that sour cream is fermented with lactic acid helps balance out the sweetness of a tomato sauce while imparting sharpness and creaminess.

a pot of sour cream with a spoon held by someone

MORE: 7 easy tricks to make store-bought pasta sauce taste like homemade

If the store-bought sauce I have on hand is a little bland, I also like to dial up the acidity with a splash of red wine vinegar.

Looking for some more tips for elevating your pasta sauce? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Mix in some freshly minced or roasted garlic. I also like to take a piece of roasted garlic and rub it on the bottom of my pan.
  • Sauté finely chopped onions and mix them into the sauce.
  • Add some heat with red pepper flakes or a Calabrian chili paste.

What are some of your tricks for making jarred tomato sauce your own?

Food, Tips & Advice
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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more.

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