Add A Punch To Jarred Tomato Sauce With One Simple Addition

One of the easiest go-to meals is pasta with jarred tomato sauce. But even the best pre-made tomato sauces can be elevated. In one simple step, you can liven up any weeknight bowl of pasta using an Italian pepper that belongs in your pantry and comes with a complex depth of flavor. The quick secret to a punchier jarred tomato sauce is the addition of Calabrian chile paste.

The versatile paste is made fromdried Calabrian chiles (peperoncino) that are crushed with olive oil, vinegar, and salt. This tames the warm spice of the pepper while retaining its smoky, salty, and fruity nuances for a balanced bite.

In a pan large enough to hold your jarred sauce, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Stir in a teaspoon of the Calabrian chile paste to the olive oil. For a minute or so, allow the chili paste enough time to bloom and season the oil. Be careful to not burn the mixture. Next, add your jarred tomato sauce and allow everything to simmer for a few minutes. The result is a tomato sauce that's smoky, yet spicy and slightly sweet. Toss in your cooked pasta, and dinner is served.

Calabrian chile paste adds a spicy yet smoky kick

As their name suggests, Calabrian chiles come from Calabria, a region in southern Italy — the area also known as the "toe" of the Italian boot. Due to the mild and warm Mediterranean climate of Calabria, ample amounts of these spicy peppers grow in the region.

Just how spicy are Calabrian chiles? These peppers are in the middle of the pack. On the Scoville scale, the Calabrian chill is ranked 25,000 to 40,000 Scoville heat units. They're on average about 10 times hotter than jalapeño, but not as spicy as a habanero or ghost pepper. Calabrian chiles are quite similar in heat level to cayenne peppers. 

These chiles can be found in many large grocery chains packed in oil, paste, or various other forms. If they aren't available at your local store, they can be easily sourced online. Top your pizzas, sandwiches, or cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta with this chili paste for a kick. While red pepper flakes are a great substitute in a pinch, there's no replacement for the complex smoky and fruity flavors that a Calabrian chile paste brings to your jarred tomato sauce.