Made from scratch tomato sauce

I’ll admit it: I have an obsession with pasta.  I know, I know… it’s SO not the most healthy thing to be obsessed with, but I just can’t help myself!  A friend gave me one of Giada’s cookbooks as a shower gift (thanks, Jessi!) and I never turned back.  Smashed pea pesto? Check!  Asparagus carbonara? Yes, please!

Then I realized that unless I started training for a marathon, I would need to take it back a notch or at least try to make a mostly healthy sauce (even though the two mentioned about do have veggies in the title, I assure you the health nuts out there would make several adjustments).  So, I did what my mom did when I was growing up and claimed I “hated” vegetables: I hid them.  Genius!  Here is my tomato sauce, loosely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s pizza sauce recipe.

Here’s all the stuff you’ll need (from left to right): grater with large holes, garlic (usually I use the fresh stuff, but I only had the pre-minced on hand this time… don’t judge),  diced tomatoes, spinach (I actually forgot to use this, but it would be a good add!), yellow onion, salt, pepper, veggies (I had some leftover grilled ones from the night before…mmm…), fresh basil and oregano, chicken (again, I had some leftover, you can use any leftover meat you want or not use any at all, up to you!), chicken broth, butter.  It’s all there, trust me.

First, you grate the onion into your pot.  This is the secret step, learned from Cook’s Illustrated.  It really *makes* the flavor of the sauce, you gotta trust me on this one. I use half an onion, but if you have a small one, the whole thing is fine.  You’ll need about 1/2 a cup.

Then you go outside and pick some oregano (mine is SO SAD now… it got all eaten up by these little black dots/bugs and I can’t make my sauce anymore.  I hate bugs.)

Take the leaves off the stems and chop ’em up.  You should get about 1/4 of a cup or so.

Then add those to the onion already sitting in your pot.  Also, add the butter (1/2 T, you could use olive oil here, if you’d prefer), garlic (1-2 t, depending on how garlicky you like things), salt (1/2 t) and some pepper.

Heat this stuff up and stir it around until it’s nice and brown.  Here are some pics of it getting to juuuuust right:

Above is just after the butter has melted.  Just keep stirring, just keep stirring… Then it starts to get a little brown…

And before you know it, it’s ready!  It takes about 5 minutes or so.  It is very fragrant at this point.  In a really, really good way.

Next, dump in your tomatoes and get them all stirred in.  I used diced tomatoes here, but you can use crushed or halves or wholes or whatever you want! You could even use fresh ones, I would think.  Let it get to a bubbly place, then turn down the heat so it’s just simmering.

While it’s heating up, chop up your leftover chicken (or whatever) and add that to the pot.

Then, take your grilled, leftover veggies (or old veggies sitting in the back of your fridge’s veggie drawer) and pop ’em in your food processor.  This could maybe work in a blender too, but you need something to really puree the burgeebers out of the veggies (hence the hiding).  Hand chopping won’t cut it, unless you’re willing to spend the next 30 minutes at it (no, thank you).

I heart my food processor.  Brian, on the other hand, does not.  Too many parts to clean.  Oh, I haven’t told you about my Doing the Dishes Deal with Brian?  It’s a family tradition for the men (the non-dinner makers) to do the dishes while the dinner makers (i.e. the women) have a drink on the couch.  My great grandmother started this tradition.  She was a smart lady.  Now that Brian’s officially part of my family, he’s tied in to the deal.  It was part of our vows.  Not really, but that would have been funny.

Anyways…  here are the veggies all pureed up:

Looks kinda gross, but I promise it adds yumminess (and nutritious-ness) to the dish.  Ok, so next you add the veggies and a splash of broth (maybe 1/4 cup) to the simmering sauce.

I add broth to lots of things.  In my mind (and tummy) it gives a richer flavor to the final product.  Next run a knife through your basil and throw it in the pot.

Cook up some pasta and put it all together for the final product!

Yum!

Anyone out there have any suggestions for making this even healthier?  I’d particularly like to hear some pasta alternatives.  I’ve tried spaghetti squash, which I do like, but not with this recipe… Any other recommendations?  Would love to hear them!

{all photos by me}

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Made from scratch tomato sauce

  1. zucchini noodles! I like ’em with extra cheese, or a bit sweeter or spicier sauce (blah sauce + zuccs = blah dinner). Plus, you can make them in the microwave instead of waiting for water to boil (I always forget that step).

  2. Looks yummy! I love that you hid vegetables in your sauce. (Could be a handy trick if you ever have children.) I’ve been wanting to make homemade pasta for some time — may not be totally healthy, but at least it will be preservative-free.

  3. Our good friend Nikki Sawyer Moore has a great recipe for homemade pasta somewhere on her blog…but it ain’t easy.

    So I grew tomatoes this year, and I’ve kept ’em alive this long, which is kind of surprising. Anyway, if one or two ripen up at the same time, I think, no prob–I’ll make a tomato sandwich. Or grill some burgers and top with a slice or two. You get the idea.

    But a month or two ago, I had something like eight tomatoes ripen at the same time, and knowing that my purty, fresh produce has a very limited shelf life before it grows dark, soft, and mushy…and knowing I can’t eat tomato sandwiches morning, noon and night for a week…I decided to make my own marinara sauce.

    I literally made it up as I went along, but mine mostly followed your suit. You can’t go wrong with garlic, onion, basil, oregano, and an addiction-inducing portion of parmesan cheese.

    The big tip I learned about it (and this is probably something everybody knows) is that peeling tomatoes is soooo much easier if you toss ’em in a pot of boiling water first. Just dunk your maters for half a minute or so, and then the skins slide right off. It’s beautiful. And messy. But yummy!

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