The jarred tomato sauce: a staple in any college kid's pantry. When times are hard, but you want a step above ramen, you'll turn to pasta with a flat, acidic tomato sauce. However, there are a few ingredients and techniques you can use to elevate a jarred spaghetti sauce.

Introduce Some Aromatics

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Aromatics is just a fancy way of saying vegetables and herbs in a fat. I would personally suggest sautéing some garlic and onion in good olive oil. This will get your kitchen smelling amazing. If you are feeling frisky, consider adding other vegetables like red pepper or mushrooms.

Add Some Meat

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If you are not vegetarian or vegan, adding meat will add some umph to your sauce. It also adds a great source of protein so you aren't just eating tomatoes and pasta. I added turkey to mine. However, because turkey tends to be quite lean, I went ahead and added more fat (butter, but oil or ghee will work just fine). 

Spice It Up

In order to really elevate your sauce, make sure you are adding many spices beyond salt and pepper. I like a little kick and will add red pepper flakes. Any Italian related herb (dried oregano, dried basil, etc.) you can think of will add another layer to the sauce.

Simmer for as Long as Possible

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Because you added a few new flavor profiles to the sauce, give them some time to get to know one another. Letting the sauce simmer on low for 20 minutes at least will let the flavors mingle. If towards the end your sauce is getting too thick, add some pasta water to thin it out.


Close to plating, add some parmesan cheese. The good stuff. Not that cheap Kraft cheese. But the kind you get in the deli section. Warning though, parmesan cheese can be quite salty, so taste your sauce to make sure it isn't too salty already

Tip: if it is too salty, add a sliced potato to it for a few minutes. The potato will take on the sodium. Just make sure to remove it before you serve it.

Be Creative

View jarred tomato sauces as a head start to a wonderful pasta sauce. They put a few spices in there, but it up to you to customize to your tastes in order to elevate a jarred spaghetti sauce.

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And when you want to graduate to a totally homemade spaghetti sauce, check out some of the following recipes:

Simple Homemade Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce