Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce Hacks that will make Weekday Dinners a Breeze! With little or no time and effort your Pasta Sauce will be just like Grandma’s
Everyone loves a great bowl of steaming hot pasta but not everyone has time to slow cook a pot of Homemade Tomato Sauce. The good news is… when time is short… you can still kick up the taste with these quick and easy hacks! I’m not saying that Low and Slow Tomato Sauce is not a Culinary Treasure… but you can make that jar sauce really tasty basically no work at all!
Basic Go To Hacks
My favorite go to is to sauté some finely chopped onions (I use scallions) in olive oil till soft (about 5 minutes) and then add some microplaned garlic and sauté for another 1 minute. Add the mixture into the sauce (or saute in the pot you are going to make the sauce to save a dish) then add 1-2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar… stir and simmer for about 15 minutes! VOILA… tastes like Granny made it!
When choosing a Jar of Pasta Sauce… pay attention to the ingredients … Plum Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Olive Oil… Garlic… Onions… Basil…etc.
Adding Fresh Vegetables
Being Vegan… I use this all the time… I even add it to my slow cooked sauce. My favorite combination is to saute some diced onion (I use finely chopped scallions including the green), microplaned garlic, chopped grape tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini. You can use any combination of your favorite veggies… it will add tons of flavor and texture to the sauce. After you saute… add to the sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes or a little longer. If you would like… you can add the 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar to the sauce also.
Adding Fresh Greens
My very favorite fresh green to add to my sauce is baby spinach. Five minutes before you turn off your sauce… add a cup or two of baby spinach and stir! It will be perfect when it is ready to serve. You can also add arugula, it adds a nice peppery flavor, young kale, escarole (only the tender leaf parts… discard the center stem), maybe add some frozen peas (if you do use peas… please make sure that they are warmed straight through… you don’t want them to be cold).
If you are looking for a deeper tomato flavor I highly recommend sautéing some finely chopped onions or scallions, garlic and then after about 5 minutes… turn the flame down to simmer and add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste… stir until it is blended and literally fry it on low for about 2 minutes… add about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water, wine or vegetable broth in and stir till blended. Add to the sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes. Your sauce will have a deep rich flavor. You can also add 1- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar… YUM!!!
Add Pasta Water or Flavored Pasta Water
A super simple flavor pick me up is to add a 1/2 cup to a cup of pasta water to the sauce. Pour it in… stir well… bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2-3 minutes … then shut the sauce off. I also like to add a vegetable bullion cube to my pasta water for even more yummy flavor. Not only does pasta water add a great flavor … the released starch from the pasta will help the sauce stick onto the pasta… it’s a magic ingredient. You might want to save some in the fridge for a few days if you plan on making a soup or stew… it’s a great additive. Also… you can save the pasta water to water plants… it is filled with vitamins your plants will love. REMEMBER to always salt your pasta water! Top Chefs say it should be salted like the sea!
Here’s a super simple flavor boost… add a tablespoon or two of Pesto! You can use Garlic Scape Pesto (my favorite), Arugula Pesto, Basil Pesto, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and all the other flavors out there! Stir it in… simmer for 15 minutes and YUM!
A really great idea to give your sauce a bit more spice is to add some dried basil, oregano or a nice Italian Spice Blend to the sauce. Add about a teaspoon of whatever flavor you are craving. Like it spicy??? Then add some crushed pepper to taste and then heat up your sauce for at least 15 minutes to a half an hour. When using dried spices… a longer cooking time is always best.
If you want to add a little spark right at the end of cooking your sauce add some ripped basil leaves or basil cut into thin ribbons… some chopped Italian basil … maybe a pinch of chopped thyme or whatever your heart desires. Fresh Herbs don’t need any cooking time time so add it to the sauce right before it is done or you can sprinkle it on top of your pasta.
You can make these anytime and freeze them… then pop them in a zip lock and use whenever you want to add a splash of flavor to your sauce, stew, or soup! Come and check out my own recipe. Now that I am Vegan I use Nutritional Yeast instead of cheese to my Flavor Bombs… wanted you to know that in case it applies to you! Once you have flavor bombs… just add them to your sauce and stir… cook for 5 to 10 minutes. They are great to have on hand.
Make a Bolognese
I love to add either Vegetable Mince (any variety) or TVP (textured vegetable protein) (which I hydrate with a vegetable broth)… I saute finely chopped onion or scallions.. then add the mince, then the garlic. Sauté for about 10 minutes… add some salt and pepper to taste and add to the sauce. Stir and simmer for about 15 minutes. (No Vegans or Vegetarians… use the protein of your choice)
Instead of Mince… you can use some cooked lentils and follow the same directions above for mince… maybe add some chopped mushrooms too. Of course if you are not Vegan or Vegetarian. Walnut Meat is another options.
Maybe you just want an extra zing of Garlic! All you have to do is saute some microplaned garlic or thinly sliced in a little bit of olive oil or you can add roasted garlic (be sure to check our video) or you might even like to mash come garlic confit. Add to the sauce… stir and simmer for 15 minutes and it is ready to serve!
Add Non-Dairy or Dairy
If you like a bit of creaminess… you can add some sour cream, heavy cream, butter or cream cheese. Just stir until melted in thoroughly. Add as much or as little as you want.
Don’t worry Vegans… I have your back. You can add heavy Vegan oat cream, or Vegan cream cheese, Nature’s Balance or even Vegan Sour Cream. I find the Tofutti Brand works really well and tastes great! You can also make a white sauce from Unsweetened Soy Milk, Nature’s Balance and Flour. Simply melt 2 tablespoons of Nature’s Balance and add 2 tablespoons of flour… mix completely (there should be no white flour showing) … basically making a light roux and then add 3/4 of a cup of unsweetened soy milk to the roux and mix well over a low heat until thickened and smooth. Add to the sauce… YUM!
- Always use a large pot and tons of water
- When the water comes to a boil which is a MUST… salt it like the sea (according to Top Chefs everywhere) then allow it to come to a rapid boil again!
- Add unbroken pasta to boiling water
- Remove Pasta Water you need right before draining
- Drain … don’t rinse (this is a no no… all that stickiness that allows the sauce to stick to the pasta will be gone)
Pasta Sauce Tips
- Remember… when adding tomato paste… always fry it a bit… even if you are not adding onions and garlic… it takes the raw taste away… very important. You can also fry it in the bottom of the pot your are cooking the sauce in before adding the sauce… just remember to stir well
- You could also use red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice as a touch of acid
- Stir often
- Adjust amounts of everything (onions, garlic, sugar, dairy…etc.) to your families tastes.
- Always start with the smallest amount… you can always add more but you can not subtract
Have you been serving your pasta on a plate? Try a bowl… it allows the pasta to stay warmer longer.
For the absolutely best pasta… add your pasta into the sauce… stir well for about 2 minutes or more under a low heat. Soooooo much better than serving the tomato sauce just on top of the pasta.
You can use 1 of these Hacks at a time or combine ones that you like… it’s all up to you! It’s a great way of mixing it up and oh so easy!
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