Times are tough and I love being creative in the kitchen. I look in the cupboard and the refrigerator/freezer at the few ingredients I have here and there and the challenge begins: Can I make a meal out of what appears to be nothing? (Mission Impossible music plays in the background) Frozen mixed veggies…Bisquick…left-over roasted chicken. VOILA! Chicken Pot Pie!!
But sometimes, pulling a recipe out of my backside can get a little taxing if I have to do it everyday. So there are a number of things I like to have on hand in my kitchen (like some of the above) that makes for a meal almost anytime, but perhaps that's for another blog. One of things I enjoy having on hand that makes a meal real easy to whip up when I don't feel like being ultra-creative: jarred spaghetti sauce.
Uh-oh! Listen! I can hear the “ewwwwwww”s and “yuck”s echoing through the Internet now. Yes, I know, it's lazy and not very Italian (and I'm supposed to be Italian), but when you don't feel like bringing out the big soup pot and making spaghetti sauce that simmers for 6 hours from Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma's recipe from the Old Country, this'll do in a pinch…and my suggestions below will actually help make it more palatable (that's “tasty” for those of you who don't know that word – don't worry…I won't tell anyone you didn't know that word). 😉
Some jarred sauces are too acidic and bitter. Some are too sweet. There are two ingredients you can use to doctor up a jarred sauce that will actually solve both of those problems!
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Carlo Rossi Paisano red wine (usually found at any grocery store for around $10 for a BIG jug)
SIDE NOTE: I know! It's screw-cap wine! Having lived in Germany for 3.5 years and drinking some of the best wines in the world, I was quite a snob with wines and my mother put me in place about them. When she came out for a visit after my return to the States, she asked me to pick up a jug for her. “Mother!” I said with disdain. “Screw-cap wine? If it doesn't have a cork in it, I don't touch it!” (Incidentally, Two-Buck Chuck has a cork, and it tastes like doo-doo IMHO, but I wasn't going to admit that at that moment. I was being a snob, remember?)
“YOUR GREAT GRANDFATHER VITO DRANK PAISANO, AND HE WAS FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, SO DON'T GIVE ME ANY bleep ABOUT IT!”
With my tail between my legs, I went to the grocery store and stood before the neatly lined, four-liter bottles with a dozen little Signore Rossi faces staring back at me, holding a fine bunch of grapes up for me to inspect on the labels. I couldn't move. What if someone saw me? I looked casually to the left and saw an empty aisle. I looked casually to the right and found I was alone. Double-checking, to be sure the coast was clear, I gingerly grabbed a bottle, careful not to let the glass clink against the others and, thereby, draw attention to my actions. With as much panache as I could muster, I lowered the hefty bottle into my cart and camouflaged it under a bag of dried split peas, macaroni and cheese boxes (even snobs have comfort food!) and freshly baked French bread.
I stared at it with loathing as it sat tucked away in a corner of my kitchen. When Mom came over and I served her some of my homemade spaghetti sauce (yes, I really do make it from scratch), she poured a glass of Paisano and savored the taste. Reluctantly, I tried a sip at her insistence…and to my surprise, it was pretty damned good. Though it isn't the greatest of wines that I've had the pleasure to taste, it does have a rich flavor that is very complimentary to food and spectacular with beef and tomato dishes. I highly recommend it as a table wine and I personally enjoy sipping it when I'd like a little something to unwind with (as I am doing right this moment).
On with the sauce modifications! For about one jar of spaghetti sauce, add about 1/2 cup each of Paisano gand rated Parmesan cheese. It's really that simple! Let the sauce simmer and add more wine and/or cheese to taste.
For the record, I started out as quite a misfit in the kitchen myself, but after taking several cooking classes, being an instructor and natural-born teacher, and living in Europe for six years, I've come to blend all this knowledge together – especially being forced to operate on a tight budget – and I've created a lot of tips and tricks in the kitchen that are practical and easy. I've been encouraged to write other entries in my blog to show how I work magic in the kitchen, so keep checking back for recipes and culinary tips on-a-budget. If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them!!! Leave your comments!
That's my two pence…
P.S. Though I feel this blog is somewhat appropriate to express my creative cooking skills, if it becomes popular enough, I'll probably branch off to create another blog. Cheers!