I take the notion of store-bought shortcuts for home cooking very seriously. Because while scratch cooking is always my goal, hello, reality! Especially during the holidays when my to-do list is particularly long. So finding shortcuts in the supermarket with short, all-natural ingredients lists is a lifesaver for me, making entertaining and cooking way easier over the holidays.
Using a good jarred sauce in a recipe is one of my favorite store-bought shortcuts, and we’ve already featured a great list of fantastic holiday appetizer recipes that put my trick to use.
Today, I’m moving past appetizers into holiday-worthy side dishes that help maximize any celebratory meal, whether you’re planning a massive holiday dinner party, or just gathering a few friends for a Friday night home-cooked meal.
Given that using good jarred sauce is indeed among the most versatile store-bought shortcuts for so many dishes, we couldn’t be happier to bring you these recipes on behalf of our sponsor, Francesco Rinaldi. As a family-owned business making tomato-based and Alfredo sauces from authentic handed-down Italian recipes, I really appreciate how much they care about helping make home cooking easier for busy families like mine.
So grab a jar, check out these delicious side dish recipes, and get cooking! It’ll take no time at all.
Well, okay, a little time. But that I can do.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #1:
Tomato Braised Green Beans with Crumbled Feta
Braised green beans are a traditional Greek dish that you’ll find all over Greece — and in Greek-American homes all over this country too, if my own family is any gauge. It’s “simple peasant food,” as my dad liked to call it, made from green beans stewed in a tomato sauce that you start building with tomato paste.
You can shortcut your way to deliciousness, though, by using jarred sauce instead. I created this recipe using Francesco Rinalidi Marinara, which works really nicely since it serves up robust, but simple tomato flavor that easily takes on a Greek flavor profile with a dash of cinnamon.
Yes, cinnamon. Really. Trust this Greek gal!
I like to top these babies with a handful of crumbled feta, which gives me a crowd-pleasing veggie side dish with a Mediterranean flair to amp up a dinner featuring even traditional holiday main courses like ham, turkey, or beef roast.
Tomato Braised Green Beans
Serves 4–6 as a side
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 lbs green beans, washed and trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth, plus an extra 1/4 cup if desired
1/2 cup Francesco Rinaldi Marinara Sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Crumbled Feta cheese, for garnish (optional)
1. Add oil and garlic to a large, high-sided pan (that comes with a cover) and set over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the edges begin to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the string beans and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper; stir to coat beans well and cook for about 3 minutes.
3. Add broth, marinara sauce, oregano, and cinnamon. Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and, if the sauce has thickened a little more than desired, add 1/4 cup of additional broth, cover, and cook for another 3–5 minutes. Otherwise, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve plain or garnished with crumbled Feta cheese.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #2:
I love eggplant, but I admit I have a hard time getting even my otherwise adventurous kids to buy into it. This Eggplant Involtini recipe at Alexandra Cooks might be the solution. Thinly sliced, stuffed with flavored cheese, and smothered in tomato sauce, it’s hard for even picky kids to resist any vegetable prepared this way.
(Though maybe I want them to resist so that there is more for me?)
The recipe is fantastic as written, but if preparing the eggplant and cheese stuffing from scratch is work enough, finish it with a quality jarred sauce — I’d go with Francesco Rinaldi Three Cheese Sauce — to reduce work without reducing flavor.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #3:
Ricotta and Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms
In my world, a great holiday dinner isn’t complete without stuffed mushrooms, and I love how this recipe for Ricotta and Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms at Simply Quinoa transforms them from appetizer to a hearty side dish.
The recipe is actually vegan, complete with instructions on how to make non-dairy ricotta, but you can easily swap in regular ricotta. If so, I suggest that you splurge on fresh ricotta from a local cheese shop. It’s a bit more expensive, but so worth it for a special holiday meal.
What you can get from your supermarket, though, is a good jarred sauce and I’d go for Francesco Rinaldi Garden Combo to pack this with even more veggie goodness.
About our sponsor
You might be surprised at what shows up on the ingredients list of many jarred tomato sauces when you read the labels, which is why we love family-owned Francesco Rinaldi. Their high-quality ingredients and simple recipe blends are the key to big, fresh flavor, making their tomato and Alfredo sauces delicious.
Not only are their sauces made by Italians from family recipes to help you feed your own family more easily, but Francesco Rinaldi has even made their jars family-friendly too. Their new lightweight, shatterproof package is a boon to parents (especially if your kids are old enough to help carry the groceries to the car) and, of course, they’re totally recyclable. Yay for store-bought goodness, inside and out.
Be sure to try these holiday recipes — and also use your favorite Francesco Rinaldi sauce over pasta for a quick weeknight dinner that the whole family will love — and share your creations on Facebook using the hashtag #GetSaucy.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #4:
Baked Polenta Casserole
Baked Polenta Casserole | Photo by Fredrika Stjarne for Food & Wine
Creamy polenta is one of my favorite side dishes for any day of the year because it’s so easy, cooks fast, and is totally versatile. And however you make it, polenta is especially great alongside the kinds of roasted meats that are typically served at holiday meals, making a creative alternative to mashed potatoes or bread. (Not that I ever say no to mashed potatoes or bread.)
You can serve it with just a pat of butter or topped with sautéed mushrooms, but if you want to make it something extra special, I recommend this outrageous Baked Polenta Casserole at Food & Wine. The recipe calls for tomato sauce, which you can make from scratch, but if you’re trying to save time in the kitchen, a good jarred sauce will do. I’d recommend Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil Sauce as the perfect choice to keep the flavors simple in this decadent side dish.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #5:
Hasselback Potatoes with Creamy Sauce
It’s no secret that I love Hasselback potatoes, and while they’re delicious on their own, there’s no better time than the holidays to gild the lily. So instead of serving them plain, take your lead from this fantastic recipe for Hasselback Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Gouda Sauce at Wright Family Table and drape a deliciously decadent sauce over the top for a mouthwatering side dish.
To make this recipe easier on yourself, you can skip the from-scratch sauce and instead try Francesco Rinaldi Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce. Then, gussy it up using the recipe’s fantastic combo of melty cheese and spices.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #6:
Creamy Italian Asparagus
I think fresh asparagus is delicious just roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. But for something really holiday-worthy, especially if you’re serving a simple main course, try smothering asparagus in a creamy sauce and topping with melted cheese. I think this recipe for Creamy Italian Asparagus at Will Cook for Smiles is absolutely heavenly.
In this case, a store-bought substitute is less about saving time and more about adding flavor. Instead of using heavy cream as the base of the sauce, try swapping in Francesco Rinaldi Classic Alfredo Sauce to make the flavor even richer. (Because, holiday eating.) Then just top, melt, and serve.
Easy Holiday Side Dish Recipe #7:
Italian Farro with Chickpeas and Tomato Sauce
Most people go to veggies and carbs when looking for side dishes — including me, as you can tell! — but beans are a favorite of mine too, since they’re packed with protein and flavor.
This fabulous recipe for Italian Farro with Chickpeas and Tomato Sauce at Ciao Chow Bambina goes especially well with a main course of roasted meat or fish. Plus, there’s a carb here too, for one-stop cooking. Hey, I couldn’t help myself.
The recipe calls for already cooked sauce, so it’s a perfect opportunity to pull out your favorite jarred sauce. Francesco Rinaldi Tomato, Garlic & Onion Sauce will go nicely in this dish. Yum.
Thank you to our sponsor Francesco Rinaldi for their wholesome tomato-based sauces and Alfredo sauces, all made by Italians from handed-down recipes. We can feel good about sharing them with our families, while making family dinners — and even holiday meals! — that much easier to pull off. To learn more about their products, visit the Francesco Rinaldi website or find them on Facebook where you can share your Francesco Rinaldi creations, including these recipes, using the hashtag #GetSaucy.