Make use of the remaining spoonfuls of pasta sauce at the bottom of the jar with these delicious ideas.

By Isadora Baum

You just whipped up an amazing penne with fresh tomato sauce and Parm, and while you've finished the pasta, you still have sauce left in the pan. Of course, you don't want to toss it out (what a waste!), but you also don't really know how to use it. Yeah, you can dunk some sourdough or Italian bread into it and eat as is, but there's got to be more creative ways to use it.

The use of pasta sauce can actually enhance your next meals to provide bolder flavors and depth. "Pasta sauce in pasta is a great way to elevate the flavor of the dish, giving more of an emphasized essence to the bland-flavored noodle," says Top Chef alum Chef Fabio Viviani with DineAmic Group in Chicago, which has restaurants including Bar Siena and Siena Tavern. Sometimes pasta dishes do not require all the sauce that is made, so you get some extra pasta sauce, he says. So save it to use another time.

"Leftover pasta sauce can taste even better the second time around as time allows the spices and herbs to marinate and provide a more flavorful sauce," he says. And the even better news? "Pasta sauce can be used in other ways than with just pasta."

Here are a few tips from chefs on how to use up all that yummy, flavorful sauce so you don't have to waste even a wee bit of the good stuff.

1. Use it in a vegetable casserole.

Chef Viviani loves making a pasta dish like a truffle gnocchi with a creamy Alfredo sauce, which is served at Siena Tavern. If making a pasta dish at home and using an Alfredo sauce, he says to use the leftover sauce when making any kind of vegetable casserole. "Toss the Alfredo sauce with cooked broccoli or cauliflower and add it to a baking pan. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes," he says. It'll be creamy, rich, and delicious.

2. Make a potato gratin.

For white cream sauces, like Alfredo, Viviani says "to mix thinly sliced potatoes with sliced onions and the leftover Alfredo sauce. Then, add cheese to the potato dish and bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes." This will make the cheesy potato dish taste super flavorful from the addition of sauce.

3. Use the sauce as a dip.

Use leftover tomato based sauce as a dip, which can be utilized with chips or vegetables. Viviani suggests taking the sauce and adding either chili flakes or sautéed chilies to add a little heat to the dip. Then, simply pour into a bowl and serve. You can then dunk anything in it, and you can even add more herbs and spices, too.

4. Make a soup.

"To make a traditional Italian papa Pomodoro soup, utilize the Pomodoro sauce as a tomato base and include it in a saute pan on the stovetop over high heat. Add in the desired seasonings and bread to complete the soup," says Viviani. It'll give some delicious tomato flavor, and it's a healthy soup to enjoy on a chilly night. You can also add some protein to it if you like, or use as a starter soup to fill up a bit first.

Another way is to add cream for tomato soup with the leftover sauce, says Chef Chris Gawronski of AcantoBeacon Tavern, and The Gage in Chicago. "In a bowl, heat up a quart of leftover pasta along with one cup of chicken stock, one cup of cream, and two cups of diced tomatoes. Add it all together bring to a boil then serve," he says.

And you can also make soup with squash for chilly months. "For fall, my top way to use leftover pasta sauce would be to add roasted delicata squash, cream, and tomatoes to make seasonal, hearty soup," says Gawronski. Use one cup of cream, one cup of chicken stock, and two cups of roasted squash. Mix together and then bring to a boil.

5. Use with polenta.

Pasta sauce tastes great with fluffy grains, like polenta. "Another easy recipe is to use tomato sauce with polenta. Simply bake polenta in the oven, add a tablespoon of butter along with parmesan cheese, and top with sauce," says Gawronski. How easy is that?

Making pizza
Credit: eleonora galli/Getty Images

6. Use as a bread topper or pizza sauce,

Leftover pasta sauce naturally works well as a topping, like for bruschetta by adding toasted bread, or as pizza by using buffalo mozzarella and adding it on top of dough, says Gawronski. "Spread the cold sauce on top of a 12-ounce dough ball [you can get this at Whole Foods] or make your own. Top with the buffalo mozzarella and bake for about 12 minutes at 475 degrees F," he says. You can even make this pizza a "kitchen sink" pizza by using other leftover odds and ends in your fridge, from the grilled chicken you made last night to the half green pepper that's been waiting for its next act.

7. Add it to other pasta dishes.

Put that pasta sauce to use as a stuffing for more pasta, like ravioli. "Tomato sauce also can be used as a stuffing by putting it in along with mashed potato and Parmigiano cheese into ravioli," Gawronski says. Use equal portions of two cups of leftover sauce and two cups of mashed potato along with a handful of Parmigiano. Mix together until consistent.

Next, add a few dollops of olive oil onto a baking sheet lined with pasta dough. Insert the balls of mixture onto the pasta dough, then top with another layer of pasta dough, and cut to make individual raviolis. Boil the ravioli for four minutes and then serve with a little bit of fresh olive oil and chopped sage, he says.