How to Make Store-Bought Pasta Sauce Taste Homemade

Made from scratch, marinara is a real treat—but also a real workout. Save yourself the effort with these easy upgrades for store-bought sauce from the field editors of Taste of Home.

When you’re stocking up on store-bought pasta sauce, look for a traditional, meatless variety so you can doctor it up with as many or as few ingredients as you like without worrying that they’ll clash. “Honestly, I treat it like tomato sauce,” says Taste of Home‘s Shawn Barto.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar (24 ounces) pasta sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef, Italian sausage or meat of your choice
  • 1 small onion
  • Garlic, to your taste
  • Chopped vegetables of your choice
  • 1/4 cup broth, red wine or vodka
  • Fresh or dried herbs of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Tools:

  • Dutch oven or pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups/spoons

Directions:

Step 1. Brown Some Meat

Pop a Dutch oven on the stove and get it nice and hot. Then brown ground beef, bulk Italian sausage—or anything from the butcher’s case. Set it aside and tent with foil. (If you have precooked meat, like pepperoni or leftover grilled chicken, hold off for now.)

Step 2. Veg out, or, Rather, In!

If you have a few minutes to spare, don’t add the sauce to the pan just yet. Saute a chopped onion or some minced garlic in the Dutch oven to add more savory goodness to the sauce. Now’s the time to add any other chopped vegetables you like, too: “Peppers, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, mushrooms, etc.,” suggests Ann Sheehy. Speaking of veggies, here are some of the healthiest vegetables you can add.

Step 3. Booze It Up

Once your veggies are tender, you could deglaze the pan with broth, balsamic vinegar, or you could add red wine or vodka like Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh does. Keep the bottle handy. You’ll need it again in a minute.

Step 4. Dump in the Sauce

And reach for that adult-beverage bottle again, says Crystal Jo Bruns: “Swirl about 1/4 cup of your favourite red wine in the jar to get out the very last dribbles of sauce to add amazing flavour.” (Here’s why you need to be cooking your pasta in red wine.)

Step 5. Add in the Savory Stuff

Stir the meat you browned earlier or any precooked meat you have on hand into the sauce. And if you want to use canned tomatoes or mushrooms (“Canned are fine!” assures Allison Ochoa), toss them in, along with the dried seasonings you want. Some Taste of Home field editors even add a pinch of sugar. Let the sauce bubble away, uncovered, for as long as possible.

Step 6. Finish it Off

Before you take your new-and-improved sauce to the table, cut the heat and stir in a pat of butter or a splash of half-and-half for extra creaminess, or minced fresh herbs for extra freshness. Last, sprinkle in freshly shredded Parmesan. Time to eat!

What to add to spaghetti sauce that is too sweet?

If your pasta sauce comes out a bit too sweet for your tastes, add a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity will help cut the sweetness and result in a more balanced sauce. (Make sure you avoid these cooking mistakes that can ruin your food.)

How do you thicken spaghetti sauce?

The best way to add some bulk to a watery pasta sauce is to add about 1/8-1/4 cup of starchy pasta water. If you’ve already strained the pasta, you can mix together a bit of cornstarch and water to create a slurry and add it to the sauce instead.

No matter how much time you have, these pasta sauce hacks from our field editors are sure to earn a big bravo from your family. And remember, it’s all about convenience and resourcefulness, says Kelly Kirby: “Never the same twice!” You’ve got this!

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Originally Published on Taste of Home