When you think of marinara sauce, you probably think of the everyday dish it’s used for that we all know and love: pasta. At around $2 a jar, marinara sauce has been a college student staple for years because it’s affordable and easy to throw on spaghetti for a quick and relatively healthy dinner. However, if you’re getting bored of using marinara sauce for the same old dish, here are six unconventional ways for you to use up that leftover jar.

1. Chili

soup, chili
Amanda Shulman

Most chili recipes use tomato sauce, tomato paste, or canned tomatoes. However, I like to use marinara sauce instead. Since coming to college, I've found that chili can be one of the easiest dishes to make on a budget because I usually have the necessary ingredients on hand. I just throw together canned beans, marinara sauce, and spices and vegetables that happen to be in my pantry, and let them simmer in a pot. It’s a super delicious, convenient, and a hearty winter dish that’s easy to make in bulk.

2. Cheesy Baked Rice Casserole

Ariel Yue

My parents are from Hong Kong, and I grew up going to a lot of Hong Kong-style cafés. One popular dish at these cafés is baked tomato pork chop rice. It’s basically a marinara-ketchup sauce poured over a pork chop and rice, with a generous layer of melted cheese on top. You can make a similar version of this dish at home with marinara sauce. All you do is combine marinara sauce, ketchup, a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil in a saucepan. Then you pour this over a combination of rice, vegetables, and your choice of pan-fried meat. Top it generously with shredded cheese and bake!

3. Creamed Tomato Soup

herb, garlic, broth, bread, vegetable, parsley, cream, soup, spoonful of soup, butternut squash, butternut squash soup
Julia Gilman

Creamy tomato soup is a comforting winter staple that you can make with marinara sauce instead of fresh tomatoes. Combine marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, heavy cream, cheese, chicken stock, and other seasonings that you want to add to taste. Enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich for a timeless and classic combo.

4. Meatball Sub

meatball, sausage, sauce, beef, meat, pork
Morgan Goldberg

If you’re bored of the usual spaghetti and meatballs, or don’t have pasta on hand, make yourself a meatball sub instead. Make it for your next meal by pouring marinara sauce on a hoagie roll with meatballs and melting cheese over it. It's an easy and delicious weeknight meal.

5. Sauces and Dips

Jade Goldstein

Marinara sauce is a perfect base or addition to various sauces and dips. Many recipes for sauces and dips are just a combination of other sauces, condiments and spices. Marinara sauce is great if you’re looking for a balance of savory and tangy flavors in your dip or sauce. You can get creative with it in the kitchen and whip up your own recipes for salsas, wing dips, dressings, and more. 

6. Pizza

pizza, cheese, sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella, crust, mushrooms, onions
Lauren Kruchten

This last one is a pretty common use for marinara sauce, but most people don’t realize that making pizza at home is much cheaper, faster, and easier than they'd expect. A 16 oz. bag of pizza dough runs for around $1.50 at Trader Joe’s, and it's good for several pizzas. Simply roll out the dough, top with marinara sauce, cheese, your favorite toppings, and stick it in the oven. 

Next time you go grocery shopping, don’t forget to grab a jar of marinara sauce. It’s cheap, delicious, and can be used in more ways than you’d expect. This classic Italian staple can be used to substitute tomato sauce in recipes and added to a variety of dishes to give your meal a tangy kick.