We Call It "Sausage Sauce"
This is one of the easiest shortcut meals you can make when you just don't feel like cooking or don't have a lot of time. Since my wife isn't eating pasta this month, the sauce by itself is enough for her to eat as a meal. Serve it up with a vegetable and/or salad and you have a pasta-free quick and easy meal.
Now if you have the time, you would make this sauce from scratch but then I couldn't call it a shortcut meal. You could even make the pasta from scratch but then you are really going out of your way to your destination. It's a nice trip but takes awhile.
The Secret to My Shortcut Pasta Sauce
My shortcut is to find a jarred pasta sauce that you really like that doesn't taste fake or commercial. Is there anything as good as homemade? I don't think so but there are some very good products on the market especially when you need something quick.
I like using a 26 oz jar of Classico Four Cheese tomato sauce made by Di Parma. My kids like it and I can purchase it at Costco but I'm sure there are plenty of other decent brands out there. Once you add the sausage, it doesn't really matter because the meat adds a lot of flavor. - What's Your Favorite Commercial pasta sauce?
How to Make Pasta with Sausage Tomato Sauce
To make this shortcut meal at home, brown some sweet or mild sausage. You can purchase it loose or in sausage links, it doesn't matter. Just be careful to check the package to make sure it is not hot sausage unless you and your kids love hot and spicy food.
One time I thought I was buying sweet sausage and the label said sweet sausage but when I got home, half the sausage was hot. No way I was going back out so I made the sauce hoping my kids would eat it. They tried but quickly made me aware of how hot it was and refused to eat it. Lesson learned.
Start by heating up a sauce pan over medium-high heat. If using sausage links, squeeze the meat out of the casing into the pan. Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage meat into bite sized pieces.
Brown the meat for 3 - 5 minutes. You don't want any uncooked meat before you start. Now for the easy part.
Add a jar of your favorite commercial sauce and heat it up with the sausage for 5 to ten minutes.
That's it. Quick, easy and delicious.
Because the sauce is thick, I like to serve it with penne pasta but you can use whatever you and your kids like. Serve it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese to give it another layer of flavor and you have a nice meal.
I'm not big on heavy sauces, so instead I use a can of stewed tomatoes (italian style)--which, to me, has a more "fresh" tomato flavor. First, I toss the pasta with good olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic. I cut up the tomatoes a bit & toss in the entire contents of the can... then serve it topped w/freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Also Trader Joes has a sundried tomato pesto that I use sometimes--I prep the pasta the same way (olive oil & crushed garlic), then toss in the pesto. TJ's has fully cooked frozen meatballs that I microwave, halve, then add to the pasta.
I'm all about quick and easy. 🙂
del monte mexian recibe tomatoes
I have tried many commercial tomato (pasta) sauces but all have fallen short (way short) of my own spicy homemade sauce. However, this past year I discovered Scalafani's Fra Diavolo sauce (medium hot). This sauce is fantastic. Not that too sweet taste, not bitter, not even commercial tasting. It is wonderfully spicy and flavorful yet simple. I love to keep a jar of it on hand for the times when I am running short on time but just gotta have some spicy sauce to toss in my pasta. Yum!
We really enjoy the Classico Sweet Basil sauce. I'll have to give the Four Cheeses a try! Thanks
Francesco Rinaldi Traditional
But I make my own often with fresh tomatoes. I roast them with garlic and parsley when the are plentiful'
I'm also a huge Classico fan - I wasn't aware there was such a cult out there! It's priced pretty decently and generally tastes pretty phenomenal -- and I am *very* picky about my pasta sauce. I also love the Sweet Basil, as well as the Spicy Red Pepper. I recently had my jaw wired shut for 5.5 weeks, and had many a meal made from Classico sauce - on its own, or mixed with plain yogurt for a pink sauce effect that also alleviated the negative effects of antibiotics, or with olive oil to keep my weight up, or both. I'm having a similar jaw surgery in a few weeks, and I suspect that Classico and I will become quite good friends again during the aftermath. 🙂 The only flaw is that it's not available in an organic variety.
I make tons of my own sauce, put it in food saver bags, freeze them flat in slabs, then seal.
This way I can pull out a slab-o-sauce and have it for most of the year(I do the same with soups and chili) I make several kinds with different meats and herbs, so they aren't always the same.
If I do run out I like Prego. It's OK.
Barilla Puttanesca is a fave, but I don' t have young children to consider.
Newman's Own Marinara is good moderate tasting that can be a good base for any doctoring you're in the mood for. Also like Muir Glen Herb Sauce. And I make quick sauces with their Fire Roasted diced tomatoes with caramelized onions, garlic and caramelizing a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.
I like Pomi Marinara sauce in a carton. It is the only one we have found that has a fresh tomato taste without any of the preservative flavors we have found with jarred sauces. One drawn back, it can be hard to find - but it is worth it!
If I have to use canned/jarred sauce, I use Hunts or Delmonte, and then add 1 can of Italian Tomatoes, chopped along with 1 can tomato paste, 1 tsp Italian Seasoning, 1 lg. onion, and either some hamburger or some sweet or hot sausage links... It's quick and easy and always delicious!
When I don't feel like it or don't have the time I love Hunt's Traditional. To make it more "mine" I add lots of red wine (Chianti or Burgundy - I just make sure it's a full red) and tomato paste, dried basil and dried oregano. If I need to adjust any other things I do that too but salt is not usually one of them. I much prefer ground pork to ground beef - it just seems more flavorful to me.
Love Newman's Own but again, as most above my own special twist. I add fresh sauteed mushrooms and fresh oregano and fresh chives. Adds color.
I make a sauce similar to this when I'm in a hurry too. I like Barilla Mushroom & Garlic and their Puttanesca. For a quick light sauce I like Del Monte DicedTomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano tossed with the hot pasta..it makes a nice, quick summer pasta dish.
I have been a Prego fan since its inception in the 1980's. Prego now has an organic version, which I love, and it doesn't contain corn syrup. I don't buy anything that contains corn syrup. I never have liked Ragu, which was one of the top pasta sauces for years until Prego and others came along. I also buy any pasta sauce that only has natural ingredients, organic or not. I love Rosemarino Pasta Sauce in "Hearty Meat" flavor and use it as dip for sesame sticks made from spelt flour. You are right that the commercial sauce market is huge. I buy a new one every so often at a gourmet store out of curiosity, but keep going back to Organic Prego. It's cheaper and available at most grocery stores. I suddenly have the urge to have pasta and sauce for lunch!
I prefer barilla also, we either get Marinara or Spicy Pepper. We don't see it in our store too much so we always have to stock up.
I rather my own tomato sauce. I use Cento tomato paste and either sauce or chef's cut tomatoes. This is by far the best tomato sauce I've ever found.
When i am in a hurry Barilla Marinara works great for me, not as good as my own w/crushed tomatoes, and garlic, onion, celery&carrots,sauteed' salt and pepper to taste...mmm, mmm, good.
For many years I have only used Catelli 6 Vegetable pasta sauce. I'm not sure if it is available in the States. It has a very low-acid fresh taste and comes in many varieties. I like them all.
I start out with the Classico Basil & Tomato sauce (2 jars) 1 lb. Ground Beef, 1 lb. Ground Italian Sausage, 2 cans mushrooms and my own secret blend of spices (McCormick Greek Seasoning... a mixture of Garlic, Sea Salt, Oregano and Spearmint that will keep people guessing). Brown the meat, add the sauce and extras, a little wine and simmer. I toss it over ravioli, it's dinner and leftovers for work the next day plus a leftover jar of doctored sauce back into the fridge!
The absolute best jarred sauces are:
(1) Rao's Marinara - a bit expensive but worth it; and
(2) Cento Imported Marinara - reasonably priced and made from San Marzano tomatoes.
I always add about a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint. It's common in Sicily but not elsewhere in Italy.
American made sauces are tinny,bitter and watery and require substantial fine tuning. Why bother.
Always buy imported San Marzano tomatoes when possible, even canned.
Barilla is number one in our house. But after reading some of these recommendations on other brands, I'll definitely venture out.
I doctor my own pasta sauces with jarred......somehow or other that is the way hubby likes it. Anyway, nearly always use Classico and buy several when on sale (usually at Wal Mart). Also add red wine.......to taste and that also gives it more of a homemade from scratch taste. Have lots of basil growing and oregano so that is a real boom.
I love each and every one of these sauce ideas. It took me awhile but I am getting better inventing new ways to put together a decent tomato sauce! Thank you, Reluctant Gourmet!
G. Stephen Jones
You are very welcome Beth. Thanks for letting me know.