Pasta sauces are one ingredient I don’t usually make at home … I have made my own pasta sauce from scratch, but somehow, making homemade pasta sauces does not interest me as much as baking breads or roasting chickens & turkeys.

So, for spaghetti nights, I would usually go with pasta sauces readily available in jars from the stores & supermarkets. But I would still liven up these pre-made sauces and this is how I would do it most times …

Jar of Pasta Sauce Livened Up with Beef, Mushrooms & Capsicum

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings of sauce

Ingredients
24 oz pre-made pasta sauce (680g)
1 lb ground beef (~450g)
4 to 5 oz white button mushrooms, thinly sliced (~130g)
1 red bell pepper/capsicum, julienned or diced (~200g)
1 to 2 medium ripe tomatoes, skins removed (here’s my description of the technique to peeling tomatoes) and cut into quarters (optional)
~20 black peppercorn, crushed
~20 additional black peppercorn, uncrushed
1 medium onion, chopped (~100g)
3 cloves garlic, minced (~20g)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method
1. Heat the oil in a stir-fry pan, deep skillet or pot, and fry the onion & garlic over medium heat until the onion softens and starts to turn light brown.

2. Add the beef, stir in the crushed and whole peppercorns, ground oregano and stir fry the mixture until the beef is cooked.

3. Add the mushrooms and stir fry until they are softened.

4. Stir in the pre-made pasta sauce (I usually use Prego 100% Natural Traditional Italian Sauce), the capsicums and the tomatoes (if any), bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add additional water if the sauce gets too dry or thick for your taste.

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5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve the sauce hot with your choice of pasta, either tossed with the pasta or the pasta topped with the sauce. Top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

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This recipe makes something like a peppery sauce for spaghetti bolognese with the ground beef. But you can use whatever ingredients you feel like using to liven up jars of pre-made pasta sauces: portobello mushrooms, ground chicken, a bay leave or two for extra flavor, shrimp, zucchini, etc … just use your culinary imagination to make more memorable sauces from jars of pre-made pasta sauces!

What are your favorite ingredients that you like to add to your pasta sauces?

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