Quick Add-ins That Are Guaranteed To Elevate Your Pasta Sauce And Take It From Good To Amazing
Homemade pasta sauce is amazing, but depending on the recipe you use, it can also be time-consuming. And let’s be honest, after a long day of work, ain’t nobody got time for a 2 hour recipe. Jarred tomato sauce can get a bad rep- but you should never feel bad about using it! There are some really good brands out there: here are a couple of my favorites:
Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce [this one is the one I purchase the most because it’s less than $4 a jar and the tomatoes seem to taste fresher than many other brands]
Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce [I buy this one in the winter when we tend to eat more pasta because it’s a great deal for a 12 pack!]
Here are some quick add-ins that are guaranteed to elevate your pasta sauce and take it from “This is good” to “Holy crap, this tastes like I spent 2 hours making it.”
1. Add some butter
Fat is flavor, adding a little butter goes a long way for flavor. If I’m just making two servings, I’ll add a tablespoon or so. It’s better to start with a small amount and then work your way up so your sauce isn’t an oil slick.
2. Balsamic vinegar
Add a small splash for a little acidity and sweetness to the sauce.
3. Small glob of ricotta or cream cheese
Add this at the very end of the cooking [a little goes a long way] and it will instantly make the sauce taste more luxurious and rich for very little effort. Note: if you’re slightly lactose intolerant like me, I would skip this.
4. Sauteed fresh garlic
It can be tempting to use jarred garlic because it’s convenient. But I promise that buying fresh garlic has 1000x time more flavor payoff. Break off 2-3 cloves of garlic and use a chef’s knife to smash the cloves against the surface of a cutting board. A few good whacks should make the cloves very easy to seperate from the papery skin, Give it a few the flattened garlic a few chops. Add some butter or olive oil to the bottom of the pan/pot you’re going to use to heat up the pasta sauce and put the heat on low. Add the garlic and stir constantly- this will ensure it won’t burn. When you can smell the garlic getting fragrant, add the pasta sauce.
5. Bay leaf
Add a dried bay leaf to the pasta sauce when it’s cooking and it’ll add some great flavor. Don’t forget to fish it out before you serve! The flavor can be strong, so don’t go overboard and add too many leaves
6. Fresh basil
For an impressive presentation and to add some freshness, add some herbs to the top of each plate/bowl. Here’s a super easy way to cut fresh basil: stack the basil leaves on top of each other [around 3-4 leaves], then roll up the bundle like a cigar. Cut thin strips across the bundle and you’ll have little ribbons of basil.
7. Red pepper tapenade or olive tapenade
You can usually find these little jars near the pasta sauce selections or in the deli area. Add a good scoop or the whole jar [I won’t judge] and it’ll add a nice brininess to the sauce. Add a spoonful and then taste after each addition. Pro tip: make sure to check how much sodium is in the jar. The amounts can vary quite a bit and the last thing you want is to create a salt bomb.
What ingredients do you use to kick up the flavor in tomato pasta sauce?