Trader Joe's Hack: Better Pasta Dinner

(posted by Emily)

Last week, I needed an easy dinner that would yield a decent number of leftovers. Inspired by Angie over at bumbershootdesign, who shared her own favorite Trader Joe's Hack, I decided it was time to share my own favorite meal redesign, using ingredients from our favorite grocery store.

This recipe is adapted from an idea shared by Mama Pea, of Peas and Thank You. Her blog is no longer live, but you can check out her book here. Basically, we are jazzing up some jarred pasta sauce with fresh ingredients. I may have posted about this meal before, but I think it bears revisiting, because this was my most successful hack yet! 

Trader Joe's products used: 

Fresh ingredients from home: 
Red bell pepper
Yellow bell pepper
2 onions
Fresh basil (from the plant I bought at Trader Joe's!) 

the spread
I started by chopping the peppers, onion, and garlic and added them to my sauté pan. I added a few tablespoons of olive and turned my heat to medium high, to start browning the veggies. 

It seemed like a lot of veg to be adding to the sauce, but everything begins to cook down. Stir occasionally, to make sure everything has been coated in oil. 

It takes about 8 to 10 minutes for your veggies to start browning in the pan. Once the browning starts, I stir the veggies less frequently, to really get the caramelization happening. 

Once your pan has a nice brown layer of sticky bits on the bottom, pour about 1/3 cup of the red wine into the pan to deglaze the bottom. Swirl it around to get all of the brown bits into the liquid--this is the tasty stuff that gives the most flavor to your sauce! Let the wine reduce for about 2-3 minutes, still on medium high heat. At this point, I started heating my pasta water, since it takes a fairly large amount to cook two bags of pasta. 

After the wine cooks down a bit, add your jars of sauce and stir to combine. Chop your marinated artichokes (about 1/3 of the jar or as much as you want!) and fresh basil. 

Add your basil and artichokes, reduce your heat to low, and allow the sauce to simmer. Stir occasionally, and get your pasta in to the boiling water. 

Simmer the sauce while the pasta cooks. Drain cooked noodles, and return to pot with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat. Serve with your updated sauce! 

(Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs optional--though I highly recommend them, now that they are back in stores!!) 

Other great things to add to a jarred sauce to spice it up? Zucchini or summer squash, eggplant, spinach, kale, red pepper flakes, shallots--basically, anything that goes with Italian cuisine! An easy dinner, that tastes great with minimal work! My kind of of weeknight cooking :) 

Any other great Trader Joe's hacks out there?


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