Use Fresh Herbs To Easily Brighten Up Store-Bought Marinara Sauce

Store-bought marinara sauce usually tastes like a compromise, but it doesn't have to. It's not that all jarred pasta sauces are bad, they just pale in comparison to the real thing, and we usually only turn to them out of convenience. When it's a weeknight, you have 15 minutes to make dinner, and you need something easy and filling that won't be disappointing, jarred pasta sauce does the job it was created to do.

But, what if you could get the best of both worlds? While you won't reach the highs of a long-simmering homemade tomato sauce, you can utilize just a handful of ingredients and techniques that will massively boost the flavor of jarred marinara sauce with little effort and time. Cooking for just a few minutes can deepen the flavor, and so can adding tomato paste, but one of the biggest additions that can lift it up is fresh herbs.

Most jarred marinara sauces aren't bland but they are one-note, with little of the depth that you get from hours of cooking with aromatic ingredients. Fresh herbs can add a big burst of flavor that will make your sauce much more complex with only a quick minute of chopping. The bright taste of herbs also helps wake up a sauce that can feel a little dull and, well, less than fresh after being made to sit on a shelf for months. It may be an imitation of the real thing, but it's a real good one.

Basil, rosemary, and parsley can each bring different flavors to upgrade store-bought marinara sauce

The great thing about fresh herbs is that they open up a lot of different options to customize your sauce in ways that will still pair well with tomatoes. The clear option to start with is basil, which is standard for a reason: Its pungent, minty, slightly sweet taste perfectly complements acidic, savory tomatoes. Rosemary is also an intensely flavored herb when fresh but will bring a more floral, piney taste to your sauce, while fresh oregano can give you more earthy notes. The one that might transform your store-bought marinara the most is fresh parsley. Its clean, green, herbal flavor is the definition of fresh-tasting and it can really stand up to the strong flavors of tomato sauce.

If you are adding fresh herbs to your jarred marinara sauce, it's best to heat the sauce first, then add the herbs at the end of the cooking process. You want the heat to bring out more flavor from the herbs and help infuse the sauce, but extended cooking can dull the taste of fresh herbs. Just a few minutes in a simmering tomato sauce should hit the perfect balance. Fresh herbs in jarred sauce won't replace the real stuff, but it will get the job done well when it really matters.