Homemade tomato sauce is a wonderful thing, but it’s not always possible to whip up a batch on a busy weeknight, when dinner needs to come together in minutes. Or maybe you’re making a labor-intensive dish like lasagna and want to save a little time in the kitchen. Sometimes you’ve just got to pop open a jar of store-bought tomato sauce.
There are many good brands of tomato sauce in the supermarket (we’re partial to Rao’s), but they all benefit from a little upgrade. And fortunately, it doesn’t take any time at all.
Never serve store-bought pasta sauce straight out of the jar, even if you’re pouring it over something that is piping hot, like cooked pasta or meatballs. Heating the sauce on the stovetop, even for a few minutes, will bring all of the ingredients together, which makes it taste and smell so much better. If you have time, allow the sauce to reduce on low heat for 15 to 30 minutes. This will concentrate the sugar and ingredients for a more robust flavor.
More from Southern Living
Watch: How to Make Tomato-Basil Lasagna Rolls
Yes, that’s right. Toss in a few tablespoons of butter, and let it melt into the sauce. If you’ve never tried it before, it might seem strange, but a little butter makes tomato sauce rich and smooth, and also balances out too much acidity, which is common in jarred sauces.
Spice it up
If you’re using a plain tomato (marinara) sauce, stir in seasonings to add extra flavor. Red pepper flakes, dehydrated or fresh garlic, dried oregano, parsley, or basil, or an Italian seasoning blend are all good options. Dried herbs and spices should be added at the beginning of the cook time so that they have time to bloom. Fresh herbs, like basil or oregano, should be stirred in at the end, before you serve the sauce. I avoid jarred tomato sauces that contain basil. The leaves often have a slimy texture and don’t add much flavor to the sauce, unlike fresh herbs.