Giada De Laurentiis' Trick For Elevating Store-Bought Sauce And Avoiding Waste

We love the idea of making a big batch of "Sunday gravy" on the weekends, a simmering pot of tomatoes and ingredients that cook down into a sauce we can use for pasta throughout the week. But we rarely have the time to devote an entire afternoon to saucery, so more often than not, we're reaching for a jar of marinara. The only problem is that, unless you're springing for something pricey like Rao's, most store-bought marinara leaves a little something to be desired.

But Giada De Laurentiis has a solution for that, and it's perfect for those who are trying to cut back on their kitchen waste. De Laurentiis told Refinery 29 that when using store-bought sauce she adds a chunk of Parmesan cheese or a Parmesan cheese rind to the sauce while it heats up. She said, "It gives it a velvety, cheesy texture. I use Parmesan cheese rinds in all of my sauces, pretty much." Plus, it uses a Parmesan rind you might otherwise have thrown out.

Add Parmesan rind to your sauces

If you've ever bought a wedge of Parmesan cheese, you've probably noticed that it has a hard, tough rind. And while the rind isn't that pleasant to eat, due to its texture, it's still packed with flavor. And unlike cheese with a wax or cloth rind, it's totally edible. That's why Giada De Laurentiis (and several generations of Italian nonnas, no doubt) saves these rinds to throw in pots of marinara (yes, even the jarred kind). As the pot simmers, the Parmesan rind infuses the liquid with its nutty, savory flavor. The rind adds a depth of flavor that will make jarred sauces taste like they've been bubbling away for hours. The Parmesan rind will soften up a bit as it cooks, and it's fun to fish it out to gnaw on as a chef's treat before you serve dinner.

If you want to try this trick yourself, select wedges of Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano at the store that still have the rind attached — for an authentic Parmesan look for a wheel that's imprinted with dots. When you've used most of the wedge and just have the rind bit left, you can keep it in the fridge until ready to use, or you can store it in the freezer to last even longer. You can sometimes even find containers of Parmesan rind for sale at cheese shops or grocery stores with a well-stocked cheese counter, like Whole Foods.

Other ways to improve jarred sauce

Giada De Laurentiis has several tricks up her sleeve for improving store-bought jarred pasta sauces, most of which focus on adding umami and savory depth to the recipe. On her Giadzy blog, she suggests adding Parmesan rinds, sizzling chopped onion, garlic, and fresh basil in a pot before pouring in the sauce to give it a boost. And to give the sauce a kick of heat, add some Calabrian chili paste. Then finish by stirring a pat of butter into the sauce right before serving, sort of like Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with a twist.

Pairing De Laurentiis' store-bought tomato sauce hack with her secret cheese trick that leaves no noodle uncoated will result in pasta at home that tastes like more than the sum of its parts. Grate Parmesan cheese on top of your cooked pasta before adding it to the sauce, and as you toss it with the Parmesan rind-infused marinara, the sauce will cling to the cheese that's melted onto the pasta. With that much Parmesan flavor in both the pasta and the sauce, it's doubtful anyone will even notice that the sauce came from a jar. 

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