The Chef-Approved Fennel Tip To Take Red Sauces To Restaurant Quality

There's nothing like getting a professionally made plate of food from your favorite restaurant. Between not having to prep, cook, or clean up, it can truly be a memorable experience. Restaurant chefs have tons of tricks up their sleeves that they use to take food to another level compared to what you eat at home. When it comes to a fine dining experience, there's a slew of secrets the chefs use to make your food taste and look incredible. Diners may be surprised to know that many restaurant dishes are finished with a pat of butter and way more salt than home cooks typically use (per Taste of Home).

Chefs have the knowledge and tools to cook everything from scratch, but even they use pre-made ingredients from time to time. Unlike the rest of us home cooks, chefs know how to doctor up a pre-made sauce by adding a few key ingredients. Grill master Bobby Flay makes his store-bought bbq sauce taste homemade with the addition of Worcestershire sauce and chipotle peppers. If you're looking to upgrade your pasta sauce for a quick weeknight meal, there is one thing you should be adding that will easily fool your family into thinking it's homemade.

Tomatoes and fennel are a match made in heaven

Chef Michael Bertozzi shared that one of his favorite ways to upgrade a jarred marinara is by adding in some toasted fennel seeds while the sauce is cooking (via Insider). Fennel seeds are made from the fennel plant's flowers that have been dried. Both the plant and the seeds have a licorice flavor that is a match made in heaven for tomato sauces (per Eating Well). Bertozzi suggests first toasting the fennel seeds to obtain the best flavor, then grinding or mixing in a mortar and pestle before adding a tablespoon to the jarred sauce.

If you can't find fennel seeds or simply don't like the licorice taste, there are some other add-ins that can also amp up the flavor of the sauce. You can add fresh garlic, butter, or Giada De Laurentiise's secret ingredient; a parmesan rind. Eataly notes that the rind adds an umami salty quality flavor, while also helping to thicken the sauce. Just make sure to strain it out after it simmers for a few minutes.