10 Little Known Add-Ins to Upgrade Your Basic Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a versatile ingredient that can elevate dishes to a whole new level. While a simple basic tomato sauce can already provide a burst of flavor to pasta, pizzas, and countless other recipes, adding in a few little-known ingredients can take it to another dimension. Here, we present ten add-ins that will upgrade your basic tomato sauce and add depth to your favorite dishes.

1. Anchovies

You might be skeptical about adding anchovies to your tomato sauce, but their salty and umami flavor can work wonders. Mince a few fillets and stir them into the sauce during the cooking process. The anchovies will melt away, creating a rich, savory taste that will impress anyone who tries your dish.

2. Red Wine

For an extra layer of complexity, add a splash of red wine to your tomato sauce. As the alcohol cooks off, the sauce will develop a deep, rich flavor profile. Choose a red wine that you enjoy drinking, as its flavor will be present in the final dish. A merlot or a chianti wine works exceptionally well in tomato sauces.

3. Balsamic Vinegar

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar can add a tangy sweetness to your basic tomato sauce. The acidity of the vinegar balances perfectly with the tomatoes, creating a harmonious and complex flavor. Add a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar towards the end of cooking to avoid overpowering the sauce.

4. Fresh Basil

While many tomato sauces already include dried basil, using fresh basil leaves will take your dish to new heights. Tear the leaves and sprinkle them into the sauce a few minutes before you finish cooking. The aromatic and vibrant flavor of fresh basil will infuse into the sauce, creating a fresher and more aromatic taste.

5. Worcestershire Sauce

Surprisingly, Worcestershire sauce can enhance the umami flavor of your basic tomato sauce. Add a few dashes during the cooking process to provide depth and complexity. Its unique blend of ingredients, including anchovies, tamarind, and garlic, will help intensify the savory notes of your sauce.

6. Chili Flakes

If you crave a spicier tomato sauce, chili flakes are the perfect addition. Add a sprinkle of chili flakes when sautéing the onions and garlic at the beginning of the recipe. The heat from the spices will infuse the sauce, enhancing the overall flavor and providing a satisfying kick of heat.

7. Parmesan Rind

Don’t throw away those leftover Parmesan rinds! Instead, add them to your tomato sauce while it simmers. The rinds will melt into the sauce, releasing their distinctive nutty and slightly salty flavor. This will give your sauce a whole new depth and richness, making it even more delicious.

8. Fennel Seeds

If you love a touch of licorice-like flavor, try adding fennel seeds to your tomato sauce. Crush a teaspoon of seeds using a mortar and pestle, then sprinkle them into the sauce while it cooks. The subtle sweetness and aromatic notes of fennel seeds will add a unique flavor dimension that pairs exceptionally well with tomatoes.

9. Orange Zest

A surprising twist to your basic tomato sauce is adding a touch of citrusy brightness. Grate the zest of an orange and stir it into your sauce near the end of the cooking process. The orange zest will provide a refreshing and vibrant note that balances the richness of the tomatoes and adds a delightful zing.

10. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce might seem like an unconventional addition to tomato sauce, but its savory and salty flavor can work wonders. Add just a dash to your sauce while it simmers to give it an umami boost. The fish sauce will blend seamlessly with the tomato flavors, resulting in a depth of flavor that will surprise and delight.


By incorporating these little-known add-ins, you can transform your basic tomato sauce into a culinary masterpiece. Whether it’s the umami richness of anchovies or the tangy sweetness of balsamic vinegar, each ingredient adds a unique twist that will elevate your favorite dishes to new levels of gastronomic delight. So, next time you’re cooking up a batch of tomato sauce, get creative and experiment with these intriguing add-ins. Your taste buds will thank you.

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