For pasta sauce purists, you can’t get more ordinary than a simple jar of marinara sauce…or can you? Of course, in an ideal world we would grow our own tomatoes in a garden, along with basil and garlic, dutifully boil, peel and cook down the tomatoes into a pungent, succulent sauce we can store away in glass jars during canning season. Most of us work and have families and do not have the time, much less space, for growing, harvesting and canning, so many of us have to make do with jars of marinara sauce purchased from the grocery store. Although this may be sacrilege to those dedicated to a traditional Italian sauce, there are many ways you can dress up a typical jar of pasta sauce. Some of these tips are so imaginative and effective, people will think you made the sauce from scratch.
1. Reduce Your Sauce
“Reduce” doesn’t just mean using less sauce. It means concentrating your sauce and cooking it down so it has a powerful, homemade flavor. The problem with many store-bought sauces is that they are bland compared to homemade sauces.
Companies have to make sure they make a profit and often dilute their sauce to get more out of their batches. With this approach, obviously, the flavor is sacrificed. One way to give your sauce more taste is to “undo” the dilution process and cook it down. This doesn’t take a long time, and as you cook your pasta, simply take a can of sauce, put it in a pan and simmer it uncovered on the stovetop for 15 or more minutes. Taste it frequently to see if it is strong enough.
This cooking reduces the water content and makes your sauce taste as if it came straight from the tomato.