Dressed Up: 8 Easy Ways to Spice Up Jarred Pasta Sauce

Dressed Up: 8 Easy Ways to Spice Up Jarred Pasta Sauce

My grandma Rosie would probably smash a plate on the ground if she were alive and witnessed me using a jarred sauce instead of a homemade gravy. Sure, I do spend the occasional five hours on a Sunday making her sauce recipe from scratch, but let’s face it, sometimes there’s just no time. When you need a dinner in 30 minutes, that jar of three-cheese Barilla starts to look mighty tasty. Just because it’s a quick fix, doesn’t mean it has to be boring — that jar can anchor a quick pasta dish or another marinara-laden meal. Below are my eight favorite fixes for jarred sauce. I used the Barilla, but any simple sauce will work — stick to roasted garlic, marinara, or cheese varieties and avoid the chunky kinds with loads of added ingredients. Mangia!

Creamy Mushroom
Sautee ¼ cup onion and 2 cups of mushrooms until soft. Add 3 tablespoon butter, ½ cup of heavy cream, ½ cup of grated parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese. Add jar of sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over linguini or fettuccine.

Season a 16-oz container of ricotta cheese with garlic salt, fresh black pepper, and Italian seasoning. Layer cooked lasagna noodles with jar sauce, ricotta mixture, and a blend of shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese. Top with a layer of shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese. Cook at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubbly.

Angel Hair Florentine
Saute three cloves of minced garlic in olive oil. Add a bag of fresh spinach and cook until soft. Add a pinch of black pepper and salt. Add jar of sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over angel hair pasta.

Sausage and Peppers
Brown 1 pound of spicy or mild Italian sausage. Add onions, garlic, and green and red peppers. Continue cooking until sausage is fully done. Add 1 jar of sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with farfalle.

Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
Combine Italian Seasoned bread crumbs with grated parmesan cheese, black pepper, and garlic salt. Place thinly sliced chicken breasts in flour and shake. Dip them in beaten egg, then in bread crumb mixture. Place in a skillet filled with hot olive oil. Brown on both sides and finish cooking in a 425-degree oven. Top with asiago, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Serve on crusty bread with cooked jar sauce on top. Note: Always be careful when working with hot oil. Cook the oil over medium-medium/high heat. Put a little pinch of bread crumb in the oil. If it sinks, it still needs to heat. If it fries, the oil is ready.

Fried Zucchini Appetizer
Cut small slices of zucchini. Bread and fry just like the chicken parmesan. Serve with the sauce to dip. To bring a little heat to the sauce, add some crushed red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne.

Smother a prepared pizza crust with two cups of jar sauce. Add your favorite toppings (mushrooms, peppers, cooked Italian sausage, pepperoni, onion). Load with shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese. Cook in 400-degree oven until cheese is golden brown and crust is crisp.

Baked Goat Cheese and Marinara
Fill the bottom of a baking dish with jar sauce. Slice an 8-oz goat cheese log into 1-inch rounds and arrange evenly over sauce. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil about five minutes until goat cheese is soft and golden. Serve with garlic bread.

Photo: Barilla