Easy Ways to Make Store-Bought Pasta Sauce Taste Like Homemade
Every family has a handful of nostalgic recipes that are passed down from generation to generation, recipes that, when cooked the old-school way, transport us back to a familiar dinner table shared by close friends and relatives. Whether it's grandma’s famous chicken noodle soup or your aunt’s perfectly flaky pie crust, take one bite and you’ll feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. For a lot of people, homemade pasta sauce is on that list — but sometimes there just isn’t time to slowly simmer tomatoes and garlic until they’re incredibly sweet and full or flavor.
When you’re longing for that from-scratch flavor you remember but don’t have much time to devote to cooking, opt for a good-quality store-bought tomato sauce instead — and then fix it up with a few simple tricks. Though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make some that’s as good as your mom’s famous slow-roasted version, you will be able to achieve something that is far superior to just plain store-bought pasta sauce in just a few minutes; something that is guaranteed to taste as fresh and flavorful as homemade varieties.
One of the keys to amping up the flavor of premade pasta sauces is to add fresh ingredients; think about what is already in the sauce (or look at the ingredients on the label) and then add some of those things back into the sauce in their fresh form. Chunks of diced tomato, some freshly torn basil, or a bit of minced garlic can help bring life to otherwise lackluster pasta sauce. Just be sure to taste as you go and use your preference as a guide; adding freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to a sauce, for example, can improve its overall taste but the cheese will also add saltiness. Tasting your sauces as you adjust them will help you balance the flavors.
So, if you’re planning on pasta tonight but don’t have time to make your family’s secret sauce to serve it with, try these easy tricks for making store-bought pasta sauce taste like homemade.
If you’re looking to enhance a store-bought tomato sauce, why not turn it into hearty ragù? The quickest and simplest way to do this is to take ground beef (or another meat of your choice) and brown it before adding the jar of tomato sauce to the pan and heating the sauce though. No need to drain the fat from the meat unless it’s really excessive. Click here for our best ragù recipes.
Deglaze the Pan
If you’re going to make a ragù and can make time for one extra step, deglaze the pan. After you brown your meat, pour some stock or wine into the pan and scrape up any brown bits that are stuck to the bottom. Then, add the tomato sauce and heat through. Click here for more of our best recipes using wine.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.