Spice up a jar of pasta sauceThere's nothing quite like homemade tomato sauce served over freshly cooked pasta-but let's face it, who has time on a weeknight to make anything from scratch? So here's the next best thing: Start with your favorite jar of tomato sauce, then add some delicious extras that will make it taste like it's been cooking in your kitchen for hours. While you cook your pasta, start a pot of sauce on a second stovetop (set to just below medium), and make it yours with these easy upgrades.
1. Don't Forget the FreshBring on the veggies! Throw in fresh-cut bell peppers, zucchini, or any other produce you have on hand, and your sauce will instantly look (and taste) like it's made from farmer's market ingredients. Try chopping up a tomato or two-they'll add some juicy flavor and body to your sauce, and they taste even more amazing after they've been cooking for a while. Then, just about before you're ready to serve, squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for an added punch.
Mushrooms and or green onion are another excellent addition. Pick up a Portobello, some Creminis, or even just a simple can of mushrooms, and stir them into your sauce with at least five minutes to spare. Use a little green onion to add a little zest without the sharpness that comes from a regular white onion-chop up a few stocks in fine slices and give them at least 10 minutes to soak in your sauce.
2. Shake it Like a PolaroidA pinch or two of seasoning goes a long way in adding serious flavor. You can use whatever you have on hand-try chopped fresh garlic (or a few generous dashes of garlic salt) along with dried basil and oregano for a classic Italian flavor. If you like heat, take it up a few notches with some red pepper flakes or lots of fresh ground black pepper. Or, give your sauce a little something sweet by adding a half-teaspoon of brown or white sugar, right when you put it on the stove.
3. Everything Tastes Better With CheeseIt's true, and marinara sauce is no exception. Cooking cheese into the sauce will make it taste a little richer-and a lot creamier. My personal fave is goat cheese, but feta cheese or mozzarella make excellent substitutes. Add the cheese in right when you start cooking, and stir occasionally to make sure your sauce soaks it up.
4. Sometimes it's Okay to Be a Wine-oAdding a little of your favorite red wine will give a more robust (and delicious) flavor to your sauce. Any shade of red will do-Merlot, Pinot, Cab-so use whatever you love or have on hand. Just don't over-pour-a tablespoon or two will add the right amount of flavor without watering your sauce down.
Enjoy your pasta dinner, and feel free to share! Post a photo of your Dinner for Two with the hashtag #dinnfortwo.
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more easy weeknight meals, check out:
Quick Makeover Tips for Beautiful Salads
Mixed Greens with Bacon, Beets, and Goat Cheese
Your Complete Guide to Cooking For One
About the Author: Naomi Garnice is a social media savvy marketer and writer. She is the Creative Services Manager for a medical device company, overseeing all marketing and creative. Naomi frequently dishes out advice on loving your work life with regular contributions to WorkAwesome.com.