Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once-a-Month Cooking Festival: Marinara Sauce

It's time again for our once-a-month cooking festival. While other bloggers are focusing on bulk cooking days right now, our festival is geared more toward everyday cooking--simple steps you can take to reduce your time in the kitchen throughout the month.

A few weeks ago, I made homemade marinara sauce for the first time ever. I absolutely love it! When I buy pasta sauce in the store, I prefer the Classico brand; I just think it tastes the best. I am so pleased to say that this recipe tastes very much like the Classico kind I pay nearly $3 for a jar. For $3, I made four jars worth!

Here's how:
  1. I purchased a giant can of good-quality crushed tomatoes from Sam's Club. It was about $2.70.
  2. I coarsely chopped about 1 cup of onion.
  3. I minced a lot of garlic (the recipe calls for 4 T.; I think I used somewhere in the ballpark of 8 cloves)
  4. Saute the onion and garlic in a lot of olive oil (the recipe calls for 3/4 c. but I used only enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until the onion is softened.
  5. Add the tomatoes (be careful, they'll splatter!), 2 teaspoons salt (I used coarse salt), 1 tsp. pepper, and 1 T. oregano and 1 T. basil (If using fresh herbs, use 1/4 c. fresh oregano and 1/3 c. basil).
  6. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until very thick.
  7. You can puree the mixture (working in batches) in a food processor or blender, and then return it to the saucepan, adding fresh herbs (if using them) and 1/2 tsp. additional salt. Continue to simmer, partially covered, for another 30 minutes or until as thick as you like. (I did not put mine in the blender; I prefer sauce a bit thicker).
  8. Once I simmered it until my desired consistency (about an hour, I think), I poured it in empty spaghetti sauce jars I have been saving, leaving a few inches for the sauce to expand. I let the jars cool slightly and then put them in the freezer.
  9. Next time I need pasta sauce, no more will I have to add it to the grocery list or watch for sales! I can just pull a jar out of my freezer, allow it to thaw (or thaw quickly by placing the jar in boiling water for a bit) and voila! 
I also wanted to point out a tip about freezing chicken nuggets, cookie dough already shaped, and more. I have been wondering for some time about how to prep nuggets and freeze them without the breading clumping together in the freezer. Laura shows us how. Simply lay everything out the way you want it on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or tin foil for easier cleanup), freeze it, then pop everything all together in a freezer bag, and it won't stick together but will be in the form you want!

This week, I'll be featuring some other great recipes from the book, Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys. I absolutely love this book! So much more than just another cookbook--more like an excellent tutorial on feeding hungry boys and men. And here's the good news for you: I will be giving away a copy, courtesy of Artisan Press.

But before we get to that, what kitchen shortcuts are you celebrating that you can share with us for our once-a-month cooking festival? I'd love for you to link up a post you've written (past or present), or share in the comments section.

May your week start out with lots of mercy and grace!



  1. I used to make and freeze big batches of spaghetti sauce, then I got out of the habit. Lately, though, I've been making double batches and freezing the second half for another meal. So convenient! I also freeze small portions to use when I make homemade pizza.

  2. This recipe looks awesome, I am going to try it sometime!
    Tried to link up, but Mr Linky does not seem to be working?

  3. Hi Alicia, it's working now! Give it another try! (Sorry about that) :)

  4. do you use plastic or glass sauce jars? this recipe looks awesome i will have to try it.

  5. Hi Anonymous, I used glass, but I think plastic would work just fine as well.

  6. One of my favorite kitchen shortcuts is to leave a list on the refrigerator for the kids of quick easy lunch and snack ideas. This saves me time as it keeps me from caving in and making something for them(they are older)and it teaches them basic food preparation.