It's for way more than just coating pasta.

By Sara Tane
November 07, 2017
Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Adam Dolge; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Store-bought sauces get a bad rap, and it’s such a shame. If we’re being honest, they can easily take a bland, boring meal to the next level in a matter of minutes. Sure, they may not be as glamorous and may not induce quite that same feeling of pride as a homemade sauce might, but some nights, we’re just trying to get (an ideally yummy) dinner on the table. With that said, we’ve gathered our favorite tricks and techniques to seamlessly introduce a store-bought sauce into your next busy weeknight dinner. And let us reiterate, there should be absolutely no shame in your jarred sauce game, you hear?

Alfredo Sauce

Chicken Alfredo Soup image

Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Adam Dolge; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Most people might look at this jar of silky, white goodness and turn their noses up at the mere thought. Ok, we get it. It’s basically Olive Garden in a jar. But that’s okay! Rather than tossing it with a heaping pot of pasta (which is also a fine thing to do), we used it as the base for this ultra-cozy ChickenAlfredo Soup. The sauce, which is thinned out with chicken broth, doesn’t feel anywhere near as heavy and well, artery-clogging, as it might straight out of the jar—yet the whole soup takes on the flavor of the creamy classic.

Mamma mia is dang right!

Peanut Satay Sauce

Thai Peanut Sweet Potato Soup image

Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Adam Dolge; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

This creamy, toasty-rich wonder is obviously delicious smeared across chicken skewers, but it’s great for so much more. Like alfredo sauce, it can make a mean backbone for a soup. In this Thai-inspired sweet potato soup, the satay sauce is used to impart warm, spicy notes throughout the entire concoction. Rather than wasting your time on chopping garlic and lemongrass (who even has that anyway?), you get these bold flavors all from the sauce. This simple dinner comes together in under 30 minutes, but you’d never know from its complex, rich flavor personality.

Watch Now: How to Make Chicken Pesto Barley Soup


Pesto Sauce

Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwich image

Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Adam Dolge

Listen, homemade pesto is a really great thing. However, its store bought counterpart can surely get the job done just the same. Aside from the obvious pasta situation, it can also be stirred into a minestrone, baked into a shakshuka, spread onto a sandwich or pizza, whisked into salad dressings, incorporated into meat marinades, or tossed into deli salads. Basically, if your food needs a stroke of added freshness and greenery, and your vegetable bin has got nothing to offer you, a spoonful of store-bought pesto is the perfect way to go.

Marinara Sauce

Saucy Skillet-Poached Eggs image

Photo:Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Catherine Crowell Steele: Prop Styling: Lindsey Lower

Okay, so this one may be the most obvious of the bunch, but let’s not forget the importance of this simple, tomato-based sauce. If you’re looking for something a little bit more than a bowl of spaghetti (that’s real, and we hear that), chances are that your jar of marinara just might be able to help. From lasagnas to baked zitis to shakshuka to homemade pizza, there’s no shortage of dinner options that will take way less time to get on the table with the help of this supermarket score. Swallow your pride, and head down the sauces aisle because it is possible (and easy) to build a bangin’ dinner off of your store-bought beauty.