11 Hacks To Make Store-Bought Pasta Sauce Taste Better
by Mia Mercado
Originally Published: 
Woman preparing tomato sauce in frying pan

Whether you're burnt out in the kitchen or just need a few quick and easy meal ideas, there is no shame in finding ways to incorporate store-bought ingredients into your dishes. Pasta is a prime example. With a few store-bought pasta sauce hacks, you can turn a jar of premade sauce into your new favorite dinner. Honestly, picking out which jar to use will be the trickiest part.

There are a few ways to find the best store-bought pasta sauce. For starters, check how much salt and sugar are added to your sauce. If you're looking for something of a "blank slate," a lightly seasoned sauce is best for you. Not a fan of super sweet sauces? Go for an option with low or no sugar added so you can sweeten as you see fit. If you want something robust and full of flavor, finding something roasted and with chunks of tomato will likely be what you need. Even the most bland and boring store-bought sauces can be salvaged with just a few simple ingredients.

Prepare your red pepper flakes, get that pasta water boiling, and have a hearty handful of cheese on hand. You're going to need them later. Here are 11 hacks to make your store-bought pasta sauce taste better.


Add Cream


Turn your jar of marinara into a tomato-cream sauce by adding heavy cream or your non-dairy creamer of choice. Pair it with penne. Pour it atop some spaghetti. Dip your garlic bread into it. There’s very little that doesn’t pair well with a tomato-cream sauce.


Add Spice


Sometimes premade sauces taste a little bland. Ramping up the heat can add the extra something your sauce is missing. Trader Joe’s Chili Onion Crunch has been my personal sauce saving grace.


Combine Your Favorite Sauces

I recently mixed a little bit of Sonoma Gourmet’s Kale Pesto with their Cauliflower Alfredo sauce, and I felt like a culinary genius. If you can’t decide between a cream-based sauce and a tomato-based sauce... don’t. Mix them together and revel in your genius.


Say Cheese


There is very little that a hearty handful of cheese can’t fix. Rather than just topping your bowl of pasta with some shredded mozzarella, add it into the sauce. Stir in some goat cheese to your store-bought marinara. Add a little extra parm to your premade Alfredo sauce.


Add Fresh Veggies And Herbs


If you want to add a little homemade flair to your premade sauce, add some freshness. Sauté some onions before you add your Ragu. Add fresh basil to your pre-made pesto. If you want to go all out, a little roasted garlic goes a long way.


Pick A Protein


Something as simple as adding meat, lentils, or your protein of choice can easily elevate a store-bought sauce. Brown some ground turkey, cook up some Italian sausage or sear some chicken. Then, add the sauce into the same pan for some added flavor.


Add Some Acidity


A squeeze of fresh lemon into a cream sauce or a glug of balsamic vinegar into a marinara will brighten up your store-bought sauce that’s too bland or too heavy.


Liquid Gold AKA Pasta Water


If you’ve watched even one cooking video, you know chefs love to add a ladleful of pasta water to their sauce. The starchiness of the pasta water helps bind everything together and adds a “silky” element to your sauce.


Add Tomato Paste


If your store-bought sauce is a little thin, thicken it up with some tomato paste. Mix in a tablespoon or so until it dissolves. Give it a taste and re-season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if needed.


Make A Bake


In an oven-safe container, combine your jar of store-bought sauce, uncooked tubular pasta like rigatoni or ziti, and some water. The pasta will absorb liquid from both the sauce and water helping it cook through. Plus, the steam created will keep everything moist.


Let It Simmer


Perhaps the easiest way to elevate your premade sauce is to let it simmer for a bit before combining with your pasta. It’ll help improve the flavor and let it reduce a bit. If only everything could be made better by just... letting it sit for a while.

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