A month or so ago I did a cooking demonstration and workshop where I talked about easy ways to integrate healthier alternatives into your daily diet. One of my props for that workshop was a jar of store-bought marinara sauce. Now, as many of you know, I usually make my tomato sauce from scratch, but I had this sauce sitting in my pantry and wasn’t about to let food go to waste, so the other night I decided to put it to use for dinner. To be totally honest, I was actually a little nervous about using the sauce. What if everyone liked it better than my regular sauces? What if it really saved a huge amount of time?
My fears of everyone liking it better than my regular sauce were quickly assuaged when I took my first taste as it had a very strong metallic taste. So with that little bit of relief in the back of my mind I set out to try to doctor the sauce so that it would taste better. In the end, it wasn’t my regular sauce and it really didn’t save me much time compared to my skillet sauce, but I was pretty happy with the outcome.
So you may be asking yourself, “why is she sharing this information with us when she is a proponent of home cooking?” Here’s why: because home cooking starts at all different places for different people. For some of us, cooking is a fun and creative outlet but for others it is stressful and kind of a huge unknown and doing something like doctoring a jar of sauce can be a great way to build up some confidence in the kitchen. Also because while there may be days when we have lots of time and energy for cooking, there are other days when we just don’t, but by doing little things we can make the processed foods we fall back on healthier and tastier! And, finally, because there should be no shame in jarred sauce or any food!
So here are my tips:
- Start with a protein that has some flavor. Bacon, sausage, and ground beef are great options. If you are vegetarian, vegetarian sausage is a great option here. Brown the protein in a skillet and then add the sauce to it.
- If you want to add some nutritional heft, throw in some frozen spinach or broccoli. Once it is soft, you can puree it with an immersion blend, or you can just leave it as is.
- Dried herbs will help bring the sauce to life! Oregano, thyme, and basil are all good options.
- Spice it up! Crushed red pepper flakes will add some heat. Black pepper is another good addition.
- A little wine never hurt anyone. White or red, add a few splashes to punch up the flavor.
- The secret ingredient is cinnamon! Cinnamon will add a depth of flavor and will help to counterbalance any metallic aftertaste that there might be.
- Avoid adding salt and sugar. Pre-packaged foods tend to have a lot of salt and sugar already added, so avoid adding more of those. Side note: if you can, try to pick sauces that have less sugar and salt.
That’s it! Super easy, right? So next time you are using the jarred stuff, try this out and let me know how it goes!