Weeknight Marinara: How To Make Store-Bought Sauce Taste Like Homemade
If you could smell what I smell right now, you would swear I had spent hours in the kitchen chopping, dicing, mincing, and stirring my way to the awesome sauce you see above. If you could taste what is in this picture, you just might start searching my house for the Italian grandmother you figure I must have hidden somewhere. It is that good.
I do not, in fact, have an Italian grandmother. Not genetically and not chained to the radiator in my pantry, ready to make cannoli at a moments notice. I DO however, occasionally have the desperate need to feed my family quickly and with whatever is in my pantry. Doing this inexpensively is always good too. When those days sneak up on me, I make this marinara sauce. Its fast and perfect for busy families, big or small. It is so easy, I can make it in my sleep. Come to think of it, I probably have made it in my sleep…
So. This is my go-to method for those days when I am out of homemade sauce in the freezer and I just need something ready made. With the addition of a few key ingredients, you can boost the flavor in a matter of minutes. Dried herbs are my friend here because it is just faster. In the time it takes to boil water for pasta, I can whip this up and use it in a bazillion different ways. Sometimes I add italian sausage, tons of bell peppers, or mushrooms. Occasionally I skip the pasta and dunk cheesy bread in the sauce. The addition of meatballs, homemade or store-bought, is great over pasta or on a toasted hoagie bun. Whatever I have in the fridge to use up, this recipe can make use of it. So smart. Maybe not as handy has having an Italian grandmother in charge of your kitchen, but I work with what I have. 🙂
This recipe can be doubled to feed a crowd without adding to any of the cooking time. When it comes to jarred sauce, I usually pick the cheapest, most plain brand I can find to stash in my pantry for emergencies. If I can find a brand that is preservative free and low sodium, even better. The addition of the butter and sugar here helps cut down on the acidity that is usually so high with purchased sauces. If your brand isn’t that bad, omit the sugar. If you need to stretch this just a bit, add an undrained can of petite diced tomatoes to the recipe.
1 T butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-quart jar of store-bought marinara sauce
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 T chopped fresh basil if you have it lying around)
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sugar
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 large, dried bay leaf (optional)
chopped fresh parsley, if you have it
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and heat the garlic together over medium heat. Once the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds) add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer together, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, and taste for seasoning. Remove the bay leaf and top with parsley if you like. Enjoy!