By Sheela Prakash
While I love taking the time on a lazy Sunday to make and slowly simmer my own marinara sauce, I fully support the convenience of the jarred stuff. You’ve got an almost-instant dinner when you toss it with cooked pasta (something I ate a whole lot of growing up), but that’s really just skimming the surface. Marinara sauce with its simple base of tomatoes and herbs has the potential to be transformed into a number of awesome dinners that are just as easy. One caveat though: The better the sauce, the better the meal. So buy jars you absolutely love the taste of, made from ingredients that support your health.
Primal Kitchen makes that easy with their line of no-sugar added marinaras. Both the Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce and Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce flavors are made with avocado oil and are Whole30 approved. Keep a few jars in the pantry and read on for some ideas on how to turn them into dinner.
1. Transform it into soup.
A jar of marinara sauce can get you that much closer to a warming bowl of soup. Just saute some finely chopped aromatics like carrots, celery, and onion in a pot with olive oil. Add the jarred sauce, and a few glugs of chicken or vegetable broth to make it more soupy than saucy, and let the pot simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. To bulk it up and turn it into a complete meal, stir in some cooked beans, rice or pasta, or even shredded chicken.
2. Use it as a simmering sauce for chicken or fish.
If your usual chicken breast or salmon dinner is getting old, a jar of marinara sauce can make it feel fresh. Pour the jar into a skillet that’s large enough to fit your pieces of protein and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer. Nestle the chicken breasts or salmon fillets in the sauce and continue to simmer, spooning some sauce over the protein a few times until it’s cooked through. The chicken or fish will soak up lots of flavor from the marinara and result in a saucy dinner that’s great served over rice or couscous.
3. Make a cheesy bean bake.
This is one of my favorite pantry dinners: Grab a jar of marinara sauce and a couple of cans of white beans or chickpeas. Drain the beans and dump them into a baking dish. Pour the marinara in and stir to combine. Then sprinkle whatever cheese you’ve got on top — shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan, and crumbled goat cheese are favorites but anything works. Stick the whole thing in a 450°F oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melty, about 10 minutes. You can even turn the broiler on at the end to brown the top a little, if you like. Then serve the whole thing right from the baking dish with crusty bread.
4. Turn it into eggs in purgatory.
A similarly pantry-friendly dinner is eggs in purgatory, which is basically Italian shakshuka. Pour a jar of marinara sauce into a skillet and bring to a simmer. Make a few wells in the sauce (as many as the number of eggs you’ll cook) and crack eggs into the wells. Cover and simmer gently until the eggs are just cooked, then serve with bread. My college roommate basically subsisted on this every single night we were living together.
5. Make a weeknight-friendly lasagna.
Let jarred marinara sauce make homemade lasagna possible even on busy weeknights. Spread a few spoonfuls on the bottom of a baking dish. Then lay a single layer of no-boil lasagna noodles over the sauce (thin slices of zucchini work too.) Spread more sauce on top, followed by cooked, crumbled sausage, some ricotta cheese, and shredded mozzarella. Top with another layer of noodles, sauce, sausage, ricotta, and mozzarella. Then lay one last layer of noodles on top, cover with the rest of the marinara, and sprinkle with more mozzarella. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375°F for about 50 minutes until the noodles are cooked and everything is bubbling and melty.