Pasta Sauce and “Fixin’ It Up”

Although I’m generally a big proponent of cooking from scratch, there are a few things which save enough time and don’t too badly impair nutritional content that I’m happy to make them from a jar. Pasta sauce is one of those items. At the same time, while totally edible, jarred pasta sauce lacks that certain something. The quick and dirty solution is to throw in enough add-ins to give it a home-made flavor. For example:

Easy Pasta Sauce
1 jar tomato-based pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Italian sausage (opt)
olive oil
1/2 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 yellow squash or zucchini
1 bay leaf
Italian herb mix
dried basil
dried oregano
red pepper flakes (opt)

Dice your onion, mince the garlic, and remove the casing from your Italian sausage. Put all three along with a little oil in the bottom of a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, and set it over medium heat. Slice your squash and throw that in also. When the meat is cooked, add your jarred pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and spices to taste. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until dinner time. Serve with pasta and grated Parmesan.

Flavor comments: You can use just about any veggie you like in the sauce, but my standbys are mushrooms and summer squash. Also, fresh herbs are fantastic if you have them.
Nutritional notes: You may have noticed that salt was not one of the additional ingredients I suggested. The sodium content in jarred/canned pasta sauce and tomatoes (look for no salt added varieties) is already WAY higher than the recommended daily allowance, so I feel that adding more is both unnecessary (my Italian-American brother-in-law disagrees) and a poor health choice. Incidentally, a quick, though not infallible, way to keep control of sodium intake is to look on processed food labels for those with no more than 5% per serving of the Daily Value of sodium. Good luck with that. For example, the “Heart Smart” sauce currently in my pantry still contains 15% DV of sodium. Yeah… ask your heart about how smart that is.
While we’re on the topic, although the sodium Daily Value is calculated at a generous 2400 mg/day, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) actually recommends limiting sodium intake to 1500 mg/day if you are able (known as the DASH-sodium diet). And in case you’re wondering if DASH is just another fad diet, the answer is no. It emphasizes whole grains and fruits and veggies and is supported by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health.

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