Reality and Marinara Sauce, from Scratch

Okay. I should clarify that I don’t expect you to whip up some intensely awesome meal every night of the week. Let’s just balance it out so it is sometimes instead of, well, never. For instance, tonight I went for a long run, and upon arriving home, got distracted by my roommate and some makeshift Phantom of the Opera karaoke (it was pretty epic).  So by 8pm I wasn’t in the mood to be all chef-like. Let the mega grazing on chips and salsa and apples and peanut butter commence.

My guess is you’ll eventually have the same problem I will– our butts, and well any other fat collecting part of us won’t sustain such eating habits. So a recommendation to help you choose a different meal on the fly:  homemade marinara sauce.

The moral for today’s recipe instruction is you can only eat the elephant one bite at a time. This recipe is your elephant. So break it down into steps that you can do throughout the week, 15 min here, 20min there until all you have to do is assemble everything, cook it for 30min and you’re done.  And lots of leftovers i.e. dinner in 5 min.

Homemade Marinara Sauce
Let’s begin by saying if you use canned tomatoes, get minced garlic from a jar, use dried herbs, and have a food processor—you might as well do it all in one sitting. But if you want things as fresh as possible (they are going to give you the maximum flavor) and don’t own handy kitchen gadgets, this is the way for you.

Day 1– dice up into tiny pieces the carrots. You’ll want them small enough so that when they turn soft they’ll be easily hidden among the tomato sauce, or well get them as small as you have the patience for.
Day 2– dice up your onion, same principle in size as the carrots. Make sure you store in a glass or plastic container. It will stink up your refrigerator otherwise
Day 3– Cook your noodles. Let them cool fully before putting them in a Ziploc and storing in the refrigerator. While you wait for the water to boil on the noodles cut up your tomatoes.
Day 4– Mince your garlic. Here smaller is better for size, and easier to achieve. If you don’t like your fingers smelling like garlic, try wearing gloves or putting a sandwich bag over the hand that holds the garlic clove. Same idea as onion in terms of storage.

Day 5– Cook the dish. While the first few ingredients are cooking, cut up your basil.

(Variation: cook the sauce up to the point you would add the tomatoes. Store it and throw everything together to fully simmer the next day).

Full Recipe:
Marinara Sauce
2 T of Olive Oil
3 Cloves of Garlic (roughly two spoonfuls of minced garlic from the jar)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced (roughly a cup)
½ c. to ¾ c. of carrots, minced (the more carrots you include the sweeter the flavor your sauce will have).
¼ c.- ½ c of red wine (cooking wine or red wine vinegar will work as well. You’ll essentially want to have the wine lightly cover all of the ingredients when added to the recipe).
2  cans of diced tomatoes or 4 c. of fresh.

½ lb. of sausage or turkey brats, diced (optional)

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the finely chopped onion/carrot/garlic mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, about 11 minutes. Add the wine and stir well, loosening any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Add meat at this point if you plan to. Add the basil let simmer gently until the flavors are concentrated, 35 to 45 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Taste for sweetness and, if the sauce tastes too acidic, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar. If you are not planning on using the sauce immediately, let it cool to room temperature. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Note:  I’ve simplified the recipe slightly, but this is largely drawn from Myra Goodman’s Farm Stand Marinara Sauce recipe


Tomato, Peach and Basil Salad

So I am essentially reposting this recipe from Penny De Los Santos blog (which is a pretty awesome food and photography blog), which feels lame since this is my first real post. However, this is just too good to not mention. Not only does this dish look beautiful  on the plate– it’s so easy and fast to whip up. Certainly a must do for any beginner cook looking to do something simple yet sophisticated. And don’t scrunch your nose at the ingredients– they may sound like an odd combination but trust me it works. Especially great in late summer when peaches and tomatoes are in season and cheap.

I am not a huge fan of strong tomato flavor so I would add a bit more peaches than tomatoes. You can really make this to your flavor preferences, but I would say one tablespoon of fresh basil (don’t even try to do dried) to three cups of peach/tomato. Drizzle on as much dressing as you see fit and store any leftover dressing in the fridge; should keep up to a couple weeks. Note: don’t prepare this more than 20min ahead of serving. You’ll want to let the juices and flavors mix together, but if you wait too long it’ll get all soggy.

Ingredients for Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

Lemme know how it goes.