The Store-Bought Sauce Ina Garten Always Keeps In Her Pantry

If you're looking for a fountain of kitchen wisdom, who better to turn to than Ina Garten? The queen of effortless elegance has another top tip for cooks looking to bring a beautiful and complex dinner to the table with minimum fuss. This time, she's recommends a pantry staple that can help ease along any epic pasta or casserole dish: jarred marinara sauce

A favorite shortcut for Garten when making her multi-layered eggplant parmesan recipe, her brand of choice is Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce. We don't know for sure why she prefers that brand in particular, but, in a survey Tasting Table recently conducted, Rao's marinara sauce was noted for being smoother than other brands, with fewer tomato chunks. Garten explains that she likes to layer Rao's in her eggplant parmesan. She says she always keeps this trusty store-bought pasta sauce on hand as there's plenty enough prep to do when making her eggplant parmesan, and the last thing she wants to do is complicate it with a homemade marinara sauce. 

The versatility of marinara sauce

While Garten specifically references using her store-bought marinara sauce for her eggplant parmesan, this hack can become a game changer for other dinners too. Sure, you can use it for other pasta ventures, like baked ziti or spaghetti, but marinara sauce can be used for more than just that. Try simmering your frozen chicken cutlets in it, or use it as the saucy braising base for beef or pork. You can even use it to create a tomato-rich panade (a breadcrumb paste) for your meatloaf or meatballs. If all else fails? Slather it onto some pizza dough for a quick base for a classic homemade cheese and pepperoni pie.  

If you're worried about your store-bought sauce bringing down the overall flavor of the dish, keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to make that jarred sauce sing, including adding some salted pasta water, fresh garlic, or tipping in another pantry item, canned clams. Also, feel free to grab your favorite pasta sauce brand — just know that the consistency will vary. Either way, trust that this is the one pantry item that will continually come in clutch for a fast and flavorful dinner.