Jarred spaghetti or pasta sauce lets you get dinner on the table quickly on rushed weeknights. You don't have to linger over a hot stove, waiting for your sauce to cook. All you need to do is open a jar, pour the sauce in a pan and heat it. The trade-off is that jarred sauce typically lacks the flavor of homemade spaghetti sauce. Adding fresh basil to your store-bought sauce helps brighten and improve the flavor.
How Much to Use
Fresh basil has a more delicate flavor than dried basil, so you need to add quite a bit of it to the sauce. Start by adding 1/4 cup of basil leaves. Taste the sauce, then add up to 1/4 cup more leaves if you don't quite like the flavor. If you can't find fresh basil, use dried. You'll only need a teaspoon or two of dried basil to get a similar flavor. Always taste the sauce before adding more basil to it or before deciding that it is ready.
Prepping the Basil
Wash the basil leaves before you stir them in. Only add leaves, not stems, to the sauce. One way to neatly chop the basil is to cut it into a chiffonade, or tiny strips. Stack three or four leaves on top of each other, roll the leaves up into a tight cylinder. Use a sharp chef's knife to slice the basil into 1/8-inch-thick ribbons, starting at one end of the cylinder. You can also use the strips of basil as a garnish on top of the dish you're making.
When to Add
Since fresh basil will lose all of its flavor if you let it cook in the sauce too long, wait until just before you serve the dish to stir it in. After heating the spaghetti sauce, take it off of the heat, then stir in the basil. Add more basil if you'd like, the spoon the sauce over the pasta or use as directed in your recipe.
Fresh basil isn't the only herb you can add to sauce to enhance the taste. You can add a number of other Italian herbs, either on their own or with basil. Fresh thyme and oregano are great additions, as is fresh parsley. Thyme and oregano have stronger flavors than basil, you can use less of them. Parsley is a more delicate herb, so use about 1/4 cup of it, or more, if you want a stronger taste. To make the spaghetti sauce spicy, add a pinch of dried, crushed red chile peppers.