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How to Doctor Up Jarred Pasta and Spaghetti Sauce: Save Money and Eat Better

Updated on September 10, 2012
Tomato sauce can make or break your pasta dish
Tomato sauce can make or break your pasta dish | Source

Frugal Cooking, Delicious Results

Stocking up on pasta is a great way to save money on food, but jarred pasta sauce can be expensive, especially if you prefer the taste of the premium brands. Fortunately, frugal cooking doesn't have to mean settling for sub-par sauce. Straight from the jar, those bargain brand pasta sauces are disappointing, to say the least. But with these cooking tips it's incredibly easy to turn a bland sauce into a rich, flavorful one; and chances are, you already have the ingredients you need right in your pantry or fridge.

Doctoring Up Pasta Sauce

You can try just one or two of these additions to make minor improvements to jarred pasta sauce, or try all the steps to make the bottled stuff taste like homemade!

1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet. When the oil shimmmers, add 1 lb. ground beef or crumbled sausage.

2. Add in a diced onion and two tbsp. minced garlic. Then chop up the vegetables of your choice and stir them in; zucchini, squash, carrots, fresh tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms and spinach are all good choices. If you're feeding picky eaters, try grating the zucchini, squash and carrots instead of cutting them into large chunks.

3. Pour in the jar of spaghetti sauce and stir everything together. Then pour about 1/2 cup of good quality red wine into the empty jar; close the lid tightly, shake to combine the wine with any remaining sauce and pour everything into the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

4. Toss in a few teaspoons of your favorite spices. Herbs go a long way toward adding depth and complexity to boring sauce, so add a little bit at a time, tasting as you go. Try basil, oregano, thyme or marjoram. Fresh herbs are a great option if you have access to them, but keep in mind that you'll need to double the amount of any fresh herb to achieve the same flavor as when using dried herbs.

5. If you're cooking pasta, add 1/2 to 1 cup of the cooking water to the tomato sauce when the pasta is nearly done. The starchy water will give the sauce a silken texture.

6. For a hint of creaminess, stir 1/2 cup of cream or whole milk into the sauce. If you don't have either one on hand, you can even try sour cream or cottage cheese.

7. Stir 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese into the sauce just before serving. I love the pre-grated Kraft Parmesan cheese as much as anyone, but in this case, nothing beats the flavor of real Parm grated straight from the block!

Photo Credit

Thank you to PhyreWorX for the above photo, which is used under Creative Commons license. 

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