Never get stuck with dry pasta again! Try these six tips to stretch jarred pasta sauce to cover a pound of pasta and taste even better than out of the jar!
Ever look at how many servings are in a jar of pasta sauce versus how many servings are in a pound of pasta?
They’re not remotely the same. Jarred sauce usually has 5 to 6 servings per container. Pasta is usually sold by the pound, which serves 8. If you do the math, it will take 8 jars of pasta sauce and 5 pounds of pasta to get equal serving sizes.
What family needs to make that much pasta for a regular family meal? Ours doesn’t, that’s for sure.
Then, there’s the fact that our family loves LOTS of sauce on our noodles. For us, it’s all about the sauce, and more is pretty much always better.
Now, our favorite is always our homemade, veggie-filled sauce, but as school and extracurricular schedules get busier, it gets more and more difficult to find time to make sauce from scratch. And I’m not ashamed to say that I keep a jar of sauce on hand for emergencies.
But with 5 hungry mouths to feed, I need to find a way to stretch that 5-serving jar to cover a full pound of pasta. Thankfully, I’ve found a few tricks that I like to use to not only stretch that jar of sauce but to make it taste infinitely better than it does straight out of the jar!
Next time you make pasta for your family, try one or more of these tricks and see how much better your sauce really is (and don’t worry whether or not you’ve got enough sauce to cover that pound of pasta)
6 Ways to Stretch Jarred Pasta Sauce
Use up vegetables that are about to go bad
Don’t throw away vegetables anymore! While the water is starting to boil, chop up any aging veggies and sauté them in the sauce pot with a little oil before adding the pasta sauce. They should be just soft enough to poke them with a fork. Then let the sauce do the rest. Good candidates for this are carrots, onions, bell peppers, eggplant, and just about any squash.
Add ground beef or mild Italian sausage.
This is pretty self-explanatory, right? I like to cook ground beef with some onion and garlic before adding the sauce right on top. If we’re using Italian sausage, I’ll squeeze it out of its casing before cooking to get a nice crumbly texture. (I’ve even been known to throw in leftover beef, though it doesn’t work as well as traditional ground beef or Italian sausage)
Add a little pasta water
Many will tell you that you should always add a little pasta water to your sauce to help the sauce bind better to your noodles. I tried it first about a year ago, and have been a convert every since. Serious Eats did a fantastic article testing the theory.
But if you really want to get the most out of your jar, try this:
- While your noodles are boiling, start heating your sauce in another pot. Set the jar aside, but don’t throw it out.
- When the noodles are finished, use a metal or glass measuring cup to pull about a cup of water out of the pasta pot. Set the water aside for a couple minutes to cool.
- When the water is warm, but not steaming hot, pour it into the pasta jar.
- Replace the lid and gently shake the jar to loosen any sauce stuck to the sides of the jar. Pour the mixture into your sauce and stir to combine.
Add canned tomatoes.
Long before ever starting this blog, I had to make dinner for my husband to take to a banquet of over 100 hungry men. And I had to do that on a budget! My solution was to serve pasta. But since the sauce could get pricey, I stretched my dollars by adding canned tomato sauce to the pasta sauce mixture. The Husband came home and told me that the pasta was met with rave reviews and several requests for the recipe. Don’t worry about sticking to tomato sauce. You can use stewed, whole, crushed or diced tomatoes. They all work well.
Pour in some red wine.
Red wine does a fantastic job adding depth and dimension to pasta sauce. We prefer stronger wines for our sauces, as they add quite a bit of flavor. This trick is best used in combination with the added meats or canned tomatoes mentioned above.
Add leftover cooked vegetables.
Would it be strange to tell you that I love making pasta in the summer? That’s because we grill a large tray of vegetables every weekend and I love adding leftover grilled corn, peppers, sweet onions, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, and just about any grilled vegetable to a jar of pasta sauce. The smokey flavor really adds a delicious dimension to the sauce.
That doesn’t mean I stop using leftovers in the winter. I’ve been known to add cooked green beans, kale and spinach to our sauce. Usually, everything turns out very well.
A Few More Notes on Stretching Jarred Pasta Sauce:
- If you have picky eaters, an immersion blender is your best friend. Go ahead and add your veggies to the sauce, but blend them up so the kids have no idea that they’re getting a few extra nutrients with their favorite dinner.
- Be warned, dark greens like spinach and kale will drastically alter the color of the sauce. No amount of blending can cover it up, but it should still taste good!
- Make sure to taste your sauce as it’s cooking. Adding unflavored vegetables, water, or canned tomatoes may thin the sauce, and make it too bland. If this happens, feel free to add in spices such as powdered garlic, powdered onion, Italian seasoning, basil, or oregano.