Turn Your Supermarket Tomato Sauce Into Something Special
As much as I would like to make my own homemade tomato sauce and either freeze or jar it for when I need it, I'm not going to do it. I make it from scratch or I doctor store bought sauce.
I say every August when the Jersey tomatoes are at their finest, this will be the year, but I just don't get around to it. Here you will learn how to doctor tomato sauce with ingredients on hand to make it taste homemade.
That's not to say I don't make my own homemade sauce during the year, but it is usually with canned tomatoes. But I do always have a few jars of store-bought tomato sauce in our pantry for when I want to make a quick and easy pasta sauce. And with a few extra ingredients to dress it up a bit, I can make it even better.
Store Bought Tomato Sauce
Typically, we get our jarred sauces from Costco and have found their selection to be good. Most often we get the Classico Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce in a three-pack. This is a great starter sauce you can add to make it a little "fancier".
They also sell some other brands including their own Kirkland Signature Organic Tomato sauce that's really good. And then there is Rao's. This is a great tomato sauce from the legendary New York restaurant that is more expensive than most jarred sauces, but worth it.
Rao's pasta sauces are made with "naturally ripened tomatoes from southern Italy" and use no paste, no water, no starch, no filler, no colors or no added sugar. Can you imagine starting with that and adding some other ingredients to make your own sauce?
You don't have to go to Costco or Sam's Club for tomato sauce. You'll find a huge selection in most grocery stores and supermarkets. I'm sure you all have your favorites and I would stick with them. The idea is to take one of your favorite basic sauces and dress it up with some simple ingredient(s) to make it better.
Our Favorite Doctored Sauce is Sausage Sauce
One of our favorite doctored tomato sauces is what we call "sausage sauce". When the kids were little and I didn't feel like cooking, I would make sausage sauce, and boil up some penne pasta and they loved it. I could even give it to them the next day for lunch.
Sausage sauce is exactly what it sounds like. Just remove the sausage meat (sweet or mild or hot if that's what you like) from the casing, break it up, and brown it. Add your favorite commercial sauce and that's it. Maybe a little Parmesan cheese or hot pepper flakes and you have yourself a great meal.
More Ideas to Dress Up Your Sauce
Below is a list of some of my favorite ways to doctor up a commercial jar of tomato sauce. I'm sure you have your own favorite additions and I welcome you to share them with me in the comments section below. The more ideas, the better.
- Browned sausage meat.
- Leftover chicken, beef, lamb, or pork.
- Fresh chopped herbs including garlic, basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, or whatever else you have growing in your garden.
- Fresh or dried spices like hot pepper flakes.
- A little balsamic vinegar or better yet, a little balsamic glaze.
- A few tablespoons of heavy cream or half and half.
- A can of beans including white beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
- Grated cheeses including Parmesan, Romano, and aged Gouda - I save my hard cheese rinds to add to the sauce and remove when done.
- Soft cheese like ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream mascarpone cheese, or creme fresh
- Sauteed vegetables including carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, broccoli rabe, and broccolini.
- Canned or frozen vegetables like corn, peas, and artichoke hearts. We use them in risotto all the time so why not pasta sauce?
- Don't forget caramelized onions, nothing is better.
- A spoonful or two of rich tomato paste.
- Some reserved pasta water - the starchy water gives a sauce some body and helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
- Some leftover greens in your refrigerator that are about to turn. Don't throw them away. Throw them into a pan of sauce.
- A couple of tabs of butter. I use it all the time for my brown sauces to add richness and flavor, so why not for pasta sauce?
- Chopped canned anchovies or anchovy paste.
- Lemon zest or even a little lemon juice.
- Chopped pitted fancy olives.
- A touch of good extra virgin olive oil at the end of heating up the jarred sauce.
- I almost forgot the bacon. You can add bacon to almost anything and it tastes better.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Tips For Doctoring Up Pasta Sauce?
I asked this question to my group on Facebook called What I Cooked For Dinner Last Night and will be adding some of their comments as they come in.
From Kim F. - We just had a jarred sauce this last week and I always add a block of cream cheese, applesauce (my French grandmother’s method), copious amounts of Oregano, a few pepper flakes. It seems to give the jarred sauce a “from scratch” feel on a busy night. Oh, if I have fresh tomatoes on hand, I chop them up and add them in as well.
From Cathy M. -My mom Dorothy G. will win this challenge in a heartbeat. The spoon stands up in her spaghetti sauce, and you will never have better. She will correct me if I mess up her process.