Yeah, yeah, I know, another cooking post. But it’s what’s going on right now. So bear with me.
I mentioned many posts ago that I make my own spaghetti sauce, and would share the story here. So here we are!
It all started in the first several months of my marriage. My parents gave me a Rachael Ray cookbook for Christmas. I’d been teaching myself to cook, since when I first got married my version of a gourmet dinner was pasta, jarred sauce, and chunked chicken that I pretty much seasoned with whatever and then overcooked.
And then Rachael Ray changed my life.
One thing about Rachael Ray is she pretty much makes all her own sauces. I found that fascinating. And when I made her chicken parmesan for the first time, I was hooked on making my own sauce. It was so zesty, so fresh tasting, way better than jarred sauce. And I got a certain sense of pride from it. Plus, you get to control your ingredients. I can pronounce everything in my sauce. I like that.
Since then we have rarely purchased jarred pasta sauce at the store. Making my own is just so much cheaper. And yummier. And crazy easy. Since I started making it, the recipe has evolved into an all-purpose sauce that I use for just about every marinara sauce application. I’ve been asked for the recipe many times, and even though I don’t technically follow a printed recipe any more, I’ll attempt to explain my method.
First, make sure you are properly attired. An apron helps. Pajamas are optional. But I like them.
1 six-pound can of crushed tomatoes, purchased at Sam’s Club. It costs less than $2 there. You can also get 28 oz. cans at the regular supermarket for pretty cheap. (I like the texture of crushed tomatoes – saucy but still a little rustic. You can use whatever floats your boat. Sauce, puree, petite diced, whole tomatoes mashed up by hand…the world is your oyster! Er, tomato. I guess.)
1 can tomato paste.
Several large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced.
A heavy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
Salt & pepper, parsley, basil, thyme, sugar, and a squirt of lemon juice (unless, like me, you are out of lemon juice that particular day – then you’ll just have to live without it).
Start by peeling and pulverizing the garlic into a fine mince. You can use a garlic crusher, or mince it with a knife. I typically use what I affectionately call “The Little Demon Chopper” (until I burned out the motor grinding flax seed), so named for its ability to liquefy potatoes in a split second. On low. Yeah, there were no hash browns that morning…
Coat the bottom of a large pot with a thin layer of olive oil. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. Begin heating the pot over medium heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, move it around and let it cook for a few moments to bring out the flavor, but do not let it brown.
Add the crushed tomatoes. Note that there is absolutely no clean way to do this. I always splatter at least a little bit somewhere. Usually a lot, though. So wait until your neat-freak of a husband is not nearby, or he will bodily shove himself in front of you with a damp paper towel to wipe up the mess.*
What’s that? You don’t have a neat-freak husband who does this? Oh. Oops. Pardon my rabbit trail.
*I love you, honey!
Now add the tomato paste, and the seasonings to taste. I find about 1 Tbsp of sugar for a large pot of sauce is perfect for us – just enough to cut the acidity of the tomatoes without making the sauce too sweet. And the lemon juice adds a nice tang.
Bring the sauce to a nice bubble, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for as long as your little heart desires. At least an hour, if you intend to serve it that same day. Let it cool before putting it your desired storage container.
I store it a few different ways. Sometimes I freeze it in individual Tupperware containers, enough to make one dinner and some leftovers for lunch the next day. Most of the time, I just put it in one big Tupperware in the refrigerator. We go through it pretty fast so it’s gone before it has a chance to go bad.
Because I use it for this:
Chicken Parmesan, crusted in oats instead of bread crumbs, over spaghetti squash. It’s a new family favorite.
And one of the reasons the sauce goes quickly.
P.S. I took all these pictures myself with my new toy! I’ll introduce you to my toy soon. AND I also moved the pictures from the camera to the computer all by myself! Are you proud of me? Huh? Huh? Huh?