If you have time to patiently blanch and peel the tomatoes, then stand over a simmering pot as they cook down, peel, and add garlic and onions and further stir in fresh basil and thyme from your windowsill plant for adding the flavor to the sauce. Enjoy perfuming the kitchen with fresh homemade tomato sauce, then, by all means, go for it.
If like most people, you’re hurrying to make dinner in a short span of time and tired from all-day work, then chances are that you are most probably opting for a store-bought pasta sauce.
With store-bought pasta sauce, you can save a lot of time and trouble cutting, peeling, and cooking the sauce. It is as simple as opening the jar and pouring some into the pan and you are good to go!
To add up some spice and flavor to the store-bought pasta sauce all you have to do is add up a few items that you may already have on hand, upgrade the ordinary sauce with simple hacks and pump up the taste level.
Simmer the store-bought pasta sauce
When preparing your store-bought pasta sauce, simmer sauce in a pot or deep skillet, for as little as 10 to 12 minutes. It’s always good to make sure you warm the sauce in a separate pan before it’s tossed with your pasta. Simmering on the stove also digs out whatever flavors the sauce already holds and improves the taste of the sauce.
Additionally, warming up the sauce helps coat the pasta better too. The simmer procedure allows the aromas and the flavors to distillate and excavate, which is precisely what makes homemade tomato sauce taste so good — it has the time to develop a rich, more smooth profile.
Add in fresh or frozen vegetables and sauté them in a little oil before adding the sauce. By incorporating some vegetables not only satisfies the daily dose of greens but also enhances a healthy flavor and texture. Onions, peppers, carrots, diced zucchini, yellow squash, and garlic are all good and easy options to pick up in the produce section.
Furthermore, the addition of garden-fresh sliced tomatoes complements more volume and acid. If you pick the option of frozen vegetables like spinach or broccoli, defrost them and trench any extra water before mixing them into the sauce. Caramelized onions, shallots, or garlic also enhance the natural sugariness.
Finish the sauce with a trickle of freshly chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, chives, or thyme.
Add Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice
Store-bought pasta sauce can sometimes feel very bland. To spice things up, it is always a good tip to add some freshly chopped herbs to the simmering sauce or sprinkle them on top of your pasta, like ribbons of fresh basil. Dried Italian seasoning mixture always augments the sauce flavors to the next level.
Additionally, a pinch or two of sugar adds up to the mild sweetness that would otherwise be provided by slowly cooked ingredients; just make sure not to overdo this step. In case, you are opting for a quick Arrabbiata-style sauce, stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes too, for the spicy flavor.
The feeling like your pasta sauce needs a little extra “something” – that something is for sure the element of acidic taste. Acids such as; capers, relish, olives, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar – all brighten up flavors and add a scrumptious sharpness and tanginess.
While heating up the pasta sauce, add a splash of the acids, like the juice of fresh lemon or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and you’ll be flabbergasted by the transformation a little bit of acid can actually make – it for sure brings brightness and zeal.
A spoonful of fermented or preserved vegetables also adds an acerbic zip that mimics the naturally occurring acid in tomatoes.
To make the sauce cream, adding dairy products like butter, heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk is a straightforward technique.
As the tomato sauce simmers, blend in about ½ cup of heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk. The color will change from a dark red to a bright, rosy tone. There is very little that a hearty handful of cheese can’t fix.
Soft cheese and grated cheeses are at all times a good option too. Also if cream cheese or mascarpone cheese are added at room temperature there is added richness, whereas, sour cream and Greek yogurt can be added in for a bit of tanginess.
In the end, add a little extra parm and finish your sauce like a pro with a pat of butter. The butter lends lushness, creates smooth consistency, and helps balance the acid of the tomatoes. A small scoop of ricotta does the same job.
By adding your favorite meat to the store-bought pasta sauce helps elevate the flavor and can make your meal more satiating. Something as simple as ground beef, ground turkey, Italian sausages, chicken fillet, or any protein of choice can enhance the taste of the sauce and give the pasta a more homemade sauce feel.
All you need to do is add some garlic to the meat and stir fry it till it gets brown and drain off any fat from the meat. Then, add the drained meat to the sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes, and finish it off by adding salt and pepper as required.
Add Pasta Water
Pasta water is the secret to superior sauce. Don’t throw the water out after your pasta is cooked but instead use it in the sauce for a richer texture of the pasta meal. A small amount of this water can really enhance your pasta dishes. It works as a binder and a thickener.
Add a splash of pasta water to the store-bought pasta sauce while the sauce is simmering. The pasta water is full of starches and that helps bind everything together like it supports the sauce to stick to noodles rather than sliding off. Furthermore, it adds a touch of a silky element to the sauce, hence, the more rich taste of the pasta.
Add Tomato Paste
Still, lacking oomph in the store-bought pasta sauce? Well, add some tomato paste to add that extra thickness to the sauce. Add a dollop or two of super-duper concentrated tomato paste, mix it in the sauce until it dissolves. Give it a taste and if needed add in salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes for re-seasoning.
Just note that the store-bought pasta sauce might already have some of these as ingredients, so don’t go overboard on the tomato sauce or the seasoning. In case the sauce tastes watery and lacks flavor, then it is a great idea to add in a few tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken it up and add more tomato flavor to the finished product.
Lean Into the Garlic and Onions
Store-bought pasta sauce always lists garlic and onions in the ingredients, but the flavors of it are often clouded in the jar.
The hack is if you add fresh garlic and onions by sautéing a few pressed cloves and diced onions for a few seconds until fragrant and golden in olive oil before adding the sauce to the pan, then add the sauce and let it simmer so the flavors can meld together.
No doubt, everything just tastes better with some sautéed garlic and onions. These are one of the best elements to build a flavorful foundation in your pasta meal.
Add Red Wine
Red wine works extremely well to add another layer of flavor to the store-bought pasta sauce. It gives the sauce extra richness and robustness. Mix the wine in the initial stages of the cooking process, right after the vegetables are sautéed. Let the wine cook and dissolve and blend in its flavors all the way into the ingredients.
Adding red wine to pasta sauce is like adding vanilla extract to a dish. There won’t be enough time to cook out the alcohol, so just add enough wine to flavor the sauce but not lend too much of an alcohol flavor. A couple of tablespoons should be sufficient, depending on how much sauce you’re making.
The secret to good pasta is to bake the dish in the end and avoid cooking it on the stove. Baking of the pasta lets the sugars caramelize and flavors cook down to each of the ingredients used and deepen the taste of the store-bought pasta sauce.
The baking procedure also takes on some of the flavors of the foods the sauce is cooked with.
Before baking the pasta and adding the sauce, soak the pasta in warm salted water. Presoaking of the pasta hydrates the pasta and washes away some of its starch, by adding salt in the water it pre-seasons the pasta.
Leave the pasta to bake for just 20 or so minutes and enjoy deeply flavored baked pasta, creamy on the bottom and a crispy crust on the top. Add a salad and some crusty bread.
With these hacks, no need to make pasta sauce from scratch. If you don’t have time to make pasta sauce the traditional way, try these hacks for augmenting the store-bought pasta sauce.
A simple dinner of noodles and store-bought pasta sauce doesn’t have to be boring. These 10 simple yet brilliant hacks can help add tons of flavor and aroma to the pre-made pasta sauce and the best part is it requires little to no effort on your part. But by spending just a few extra minutes, you can give your sauce a homemade upgrade.
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