You’re having company over tonight, but you don’t have much time to whip up dinner, so it’s boxed pasta to the rescue. Before you slather it in store-bought spaghetti sauce, allow me to help you jazz up your meal by upgrading the sauce. If you’re wondering how to make store-bought spaghetti sauce better, just keep reading.
Common ingredients you can add to store-bought spaghetti sauce to make it even better:
- Butter or cream
- Dried or fresh herbs (especially basil)
- Olive oil
- Red wine
- Red pepper flakes
- Sauteed vegetables
- Fresh garlic
With one or more of the above ingredients in your sauce, after one taste, you’ll hardly believe this is the same predictable jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce you always buy. Keep reading for tips, tricks, and ingredient quantities so you can wow your friends and family.
10 Common Ingredients That Make Store-Bought Spaghetti Sauce Better!
Butter or Cream
Butter makes for a fantastic addition to most tomato-based pasta sauces since it neutralizes the acidity of the tomatoes.
The mouthfeel of the sauce is also a lot creamier, so enjoying pasta and buttery tomato sauce feels like dining at a fine Italian restaurant.
Since I’m sure you want to win presentation points when serving your pasta dinner, you’ll also like how the inclusion of butter brightens up the tomato sauce’s color. It turns a cheerier red.
Butter isn’t all you can add to store-bought spaghetti sauce. Try cream too!
Heavy cream like you’d use when whipping up a baked dessert is perfect for pasta sauce. It too reduces the spaghetti sauce’s acidity and makes it go down smooth.
If you want to combine the two ingredients, then butter the noodles and add heavy cream to the pasta sauce. Perfection!
Along with improving your store bought spaghetti sauce, I also wrote an article titled: How to Use Spaghetti Sauce as Pizza Sauce that you might want to read too.
Sure, almost everyone loves a heaping helping of cheese on their pasta, but what about cheese in the sauce itself?
The best part about this method is there’s almost no wrong way to do it. Do you like hard cheeses like pecorino or Parmesan? Go for it!
Maybe you’re more of a fan of soft cheeses such as mozzarella? That’s fine too.
Even Colby and cheddar are appropriate here.
Oh, and who says you have to use just one type of cheese? Certainly not I.
You can mix and match your hard cheeses and your soft cheeses, which certainly gives the spaghetti sauce a more interesting bite.
To add cheese to pasta sauce, I recommend dumping some sauce into a pan, letting it simmer, and then stirring in the cheese on low heat.
Dried or Fresh Herbs (Especially Basil)
More than likely, your store-bought spaghetti sauce already has some herbs in it. Even still, are they fresh? I would bet the answer is no.
You can fix that by mixing in your own herbs. I would again suggest simmering your sauce over low heat for a while to ensure the herbs are well incorporated into the sauce.
As you stir, feel free to mix in the dried herbs whenever you wish. To keep fresh herbs from drying out, add them right before you take the sauce off the heat.
The question becomes, which herbs should you sprinkle in? This is just like adding cheese to store-bought spaghetti sauce: you can’t go wrong no matter which herb you choose.
Basil is certainly the top dog. There’s just something about fresh basil and tomato that’s a match made in heaven.
If you’ve ever had margherita pizza or pinsa, then you know exactly what I mean.
If you’re not familiar with what a pinsa is I recommend reading my article titled, What’s the Difference Between Pinsa and Pizza?
Fresh basil will impart more flavor, but dried basil is fine too if that’s all you’ve got.
Outside of basil, you can try thyme, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, oregano, marjoram, dill, and chives on their own or in combination together.
You know what your store-bought spaghetti sauce needs more of? Olive oil.
While some of the ingredients I’ve talked about such as butter and cream can reduce the acidity of the tomatoes, olive oil brings it out more. That makes each delectable mouthful of sauce have more of a bite to it.
You can mix some olive oil right into the pasta sauce jar. After pouring the sauce on the pasta, the olive oil will coat each strand of pasta while the sauce goes on as normal.
Even Italians can’t quite agree on how much olive oil should go into pasta sauce. If you have a liter of sauce, you might add half a cup of olive oil.
If you’re using enough pasta sauce for two, you could mix in two to three tablespoons of olive oil.
I’ll leave it up to you and how much you enjoy the flavor of olive oil.
You were planning to serve a bottle of vino with dinner tonight. Rather than do that, why not add some red wine to your sauce instead?
Red wine adds a robust, rich flavor to spaghetti sauce that will make you do a double-take.
If you want to bring out the fruitier notes of tomatoes (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit), then use some white wine.
The best way to bring out the depth of wine’s flavor in pasta sauce is to simmer the sauce, stir the wine in, and allow it to reduce. Since most of the alcohol evaporates, even kids could eat red wine pasta sauce.
However, if time is short, you could always dump a few tablespoons of red wine straight into the sauce, stir, and serve. Just make sure to put the kids to bed, as this tomato sauce is decidedly adults only!
Briny foods such as capers and olives might not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who want to boldly liven up their store-bought spaghetti sauce, I say give it a try!
Please drain the capers before adding them to the pasta sauce and pit the olives. Then heat up the pasta sauce for a few minutes on your stovetop, stirring consistently. The unique flavor will certainly win you some compliments.
Red Pepper Flakes
How’s this for a kick? Red pepper flakes will add plenty of fresh dimension to your spaghetti sauce.
To avoid overloading your sauce with too much spice, sprinkle in a small amount of red pepper flakes at a time and sample the sauce.
If the flavor and spice aren’t coming through, you can add more red pepper and then taste again. Keep doing this until the sauce is just right.
This is actually a good rule of thumb for implementing any fresh ingredients into store-bought spaghetti sauce: try some and pour in more a little at a time.
After all, you can always add more, but you can’t take away what’s already in there!
Spaghetti sauce can become a filling meal in and of itself when you incorporate meat into it.
Whatever your favorite meat is can go in, everything from chicken to meatballs, sausage, and ground beef.
You will have to put a bit more time into preparing the meaty pasta sauce. First, you want to turn on your stovetop and add garlic and meat to the pan. When the meat has browned, turn the heat off.
Then add the meat to your pasta sauce and heat that for a few minutes. The meat will finish cooking all the way through.
For vegetarians or those who just want to get more greens in their diets, sauteed vegetables make for a fantastic addition to spaghetti sauce. You’ll hardly believe what you’re serving is store-bought!
Pick your favorite vegetables to go into the sauce. The best companions for tomato sauce are carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper, onions, and tomatoes.
To sauté the veggies, turn your stovetop to medium-high and pour olive oil onto a pan big enough for all the vegetables. Add them to the pan and stir.
After about two minutes, the vegetables will begin to wilt, which is when you want to take them off the heat.
Stir in chicken stock, soy sauce, and oregano and leave the pan on the stove (with it off but still hot) for another minute. Then let everything cool.
Next, transfer your sauteed veggies to your pan of simmering sauce and prepare to be amazed!
Does your store-bought spaghetti sauce already have garlic? Sure. I would bet the garlic isn’t fresh though, hence why the garlicky flavor doesn’t come through enough.
You can change that by incorporating fresh garlic into the sauce. Mince a few cloves and maybe add some onion too. Your guests won’t believe that you didn’t make the pasta sauce yourself from scratch!
Those of you that have read this far likely love spaghetti sauce as much as I do so I’d like to share a piece of information with you that you might find interesting. Did you know that there’s a day that’s dedicated to spaghetti?
That’s right, every year, spaghetti is celebrated on a national level in the United States. I’ve highlighted this day for foodies in my article titled National Spaghetti Day: The Definitive Guide.
Give it a read and mark your calendars so you can join in on the fun each year when thousands of like minded people pay homage to this amazing red sauce we use for so many meals.