How To Cook Spaghetti Sauce From A Jar

Picture it now… you’re at work late, scrambling to get everything finished before you leave. You walk in the door an hour after you said you’d be, and it’s then that you realize… your kids never took that damn sauce out of the freezer.

If this is you, you’re not alone.

In fact, I think that I put my parents through this myself when I was a kid.

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

But if you have a jar of spaghetti sauce on hand, that should fix this issue.

You use jarred pasta sauce?!


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Yep, you heard me right.

Even someone like me who takes great pride in carrying down my family’s recipes from Italy still uses jarred sauce from time to time.

Part of the reason I choose to use a jarred sauce over a homemade pasta sauce for a lot of my weeknight dinners is because it’s such an easy way to get all of the flavors that you know and love without taking a ton of time to get there. There are tons of different recipes you can make using jarred or canned spaghetti sauce.

Here’s the thing: it all comes from the same place. Most sauces are all found on the base of cooking tomatoes down into delicious goodness. It’s the kind of sauce that you use, though, that changes the game.

Step 1: Use a high quality marinara sauce


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If you take any piece of advice that I give in this article, let it be this: use a high-quality marinara sauce.

A high-quality sauce changes the game.

Most of the time, a lot of the cheap stuff that you find in the grocery store is filled with tons of preservatives and added sugars that increase the sodium content by a lot. Not to mention all of the toxins that could be found in these sauces, especially ones that are packaged in plastic containers.

Try looking for a sauce made by a small business with all-natural ingredients. It may be more expensive, but it’s so worth it. It’ll taste a lot better and will probably be less acidic too.

Step 2: Brown some meat


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This step is totally optional, of course, but I love making my jar of store-bought pasta sauce into a meat sauce recipe.

The first thing you should be doing before you go to cook any jarred sauce on the stove is browning some meat in a skillet.

It can be any Italian whole or ground meat, really. Italian sausage, ground beef, or even ground turkey will do the trick. Just make sure you remove the oil from it before you add it to your jarred tomato sauce.

The flavors from the meat will provide a robust depth to the sauce that you weren’t expecting, and really make it so it tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove for hours.

Step 3: Cook your onions and garlic

Something I like to do before cooking any jar of sauce is to add some onions and fresh garlic to it.

I cook them in a tiny bit of olive oil on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, and it elevates the sauce so much. The essence of the fresh vegetables makes it so the sauce tastes like it just came off of your grandmother’s stove.

One thing to consider when completing this step is whether or not your sauce has any onions and garlic in it already. If so, you may opt to use a bit less during this step in the cooking process rather than if your sauce doesn’t include any.

Step 4: Use fresh herbs

Aside from salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, using ingredients like fresh basil and parsley will really pack a new punch right into your jarred tomato sauce.

Step 5: Add some cheese

One thing that I always love to do when making jarred sauce is to add a handful of pecorino Romano cheese or parmesan cheese to the saucepan or dutch oven. It’s this step that really seals everything together and takes you right back to when you were at Sunday dinner as a kid.

There’s just something about pecorino Romano that takes everything to the next level.

You also could add a splash of vodka and some heavy cream in with this step, making your jarred marinara sauce into a vodka sauce. I did this with our very own jarred marinara sauce here:

@gianna_ferrini This is super low carb and yummy 🫶 marinara sauce from @Mortadella Head in Somerville! #DidYouYawn #fallrecipes #autumnaesthetic #tiktokhowto #easyrecipe #bostontiktok ♬ Cleopatra – The Lumineers

You may also use this trick to make our version of Carbone’s Spicy Rigatoni Alla Vodka.

No matter how bold you decide to go with this step, even just a little bit of Romano cheese will go a long way. Personally, this is my favorite way to transform store-bought sauce.

Step 6: Let it cook for 30-45 minutes


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This step might be controversial, but it’s the only way to really make sure that everything gets blended together perfectly.

You want the juices from the meat to cook into the sauce, and the cheese to perfectly melt. You want the essences of the garlic and onions to combine into your cooking, giving you those tastes that you crave from your childhood.

The best way to do this is by cooking the sauce as low and slow as you can, and giving everything enough time to sit in the pot. For me, this ends up being anywhere from 30-45 minutes, while stirring frequently with a wooden spoon (super important).

When stirring, you want to make sure your spoon touches the bottom of the pan to ensure that nothing is burning.

Letting the pasta sit for this long will ensure that you have the homemade taste to your tomato sauce, and that you won’t even be able to tell you’re using a jarred sauce.

Once your sauce is heated through, it’s time to put it over your favorite pasta shape and serve!

Jarred Sauce FAQs


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How long does a jar of pasta sauce last?

If the sauce is opened, it usually is good to use for about a week. It can stay well preserved in the jar for up to two years.

Can I store leftover sauce in the freezer?

Absolutely! This is good in the freezer for up to six months in an airtight container, or if you’re freezing the entire meal, up to three months if stored in freezer bags.


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Can I use jarred sauce with anything other than spaghetti?

For sure. A good option would be to use some jarred marinara with some gnocchi to make gnocchi Sorrentina. You can also use this in some subs, such as a steak and cheese sub or a sausage pepper and onion sub. Lastly, I love to use jarred marinara with some nice homemade lasagna.

Here are some recipes that would work with jarred tomato sauce:

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