Not to offend anyone, but I have to be honest. I’m not a fan of spaghetti sauce based dishes from restaurants. The vegetarian version of most tomato based sauces are severely lacking without the meat or cheese.
It tastes overly bright and tomato-y, without a deep rich flavor. Worst, it often leaves a pool of watery sauce on the bottom of the spaghetti.
Today I’m sharing how to hack store-bought spaghetti sauce so that it actually tastes delicious. We’re talking the flavor of homemade without all the effort!
Deepening The Flavors
Tomato has more than enough naturally bright flavor, so don’t be afraid of deepening those flavors a bit. It will still come through as a strongly tomato flavor, and celebrate everything we love about the tomato. However when a good sauce adds just the right amount of each ingredient, it will boast a rich savory flavor that best highlights those tomatoes.
Most store bought spaghetti sauce doesn’t have quite enough umami to make for a balanced flavor when it is made without beef. That means the vegetarian or vegan is left eating a sauce that isn’t quite right, and meat substitutes don’t have the qualities to adequately deepen enrich flavors.
The trick is to add umami using ingredients such as onion powder (fresh onion won’t substitute), nutritional yeast, and even finely chopped mushrooms. Then carefully balance the umami flavors by adding the right amount of sweetness using brown sugar. I realize many won’t like the idea of adding extra sweetener to a spaghetti sauce, but trust me it is important to get the right flavor balance. In the end, it doesn’t taste like a sweet sauce, it just tastes the way you would expect a delicious rich spaghetti sauce to taste.
Thicken The Spaghetti Sauce
Some store bought pasta sauces do a pretty good job of adding plenty of vegetables and chunks to make a visually hearty sauce. But then the fine balance of bottling a sauce so it will last for months on a shelf without congealing means even the heartiest looking sauce still leaves a pooling mess.
Whether you prefer cornstarch or arrowroot, take a moment to thicken the sauce even further. This will prevent the loose liquids from separating once it’s on the plate.
The Pasta Sauce ‘Recipe’ Hack
The recipe below works best with Ragu brand pasta sauce. It is important you are using the 45 ounce bottle, or that you adjust your measurements accordingly.
Because each brand of sauce is different, if you use another brand be sure to adjust the amount of each ingredient to taste.
Spaghetti Sauce Hack
- Vegetables of choice finely chopped (optional)
- 45 oz bottle Ragu spaghetti sauce
- 2 tbsp Brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Onion powder
- 1 tsp Paprika (optional)
- 1 tbsp Nutritional yeast (optional)
- 2 tsp Cornstarch
Optionally saute vegetables of choice in a sauce pan until golden, then add the jar of spaghetti sauce.
Stir the seasonings into the spaghetti sauce on medium heat. Add a spoonful of cool water to a cup to dissolve the cornstarch in and add to the sauce. Stir until the cornstarch has finished thickening.
Add any vegetarian meat substitute at this time. And if you are making this a vegetarian rather than vegan sauce, add 2 tablespoons of cream cheese at this point. Stir until everything is adequately warmed, and all elements are properly mixed. Serve hot over spaghetti noodles!
Use This Sauce With…
This pasta sauce is delicious as spaghetti, or try it as a base for tomato soup, or even this super yummy vegan pizza recipe.