Wow, thanks so much for your immediate outpouring of love and support for this blog. I’m excited for what’s ahead! I’ll try not to let you down.
Let’s start with a classic recipe: spaghetti sauce. Making your own tomato sauce is really quite easy and tastes so much fresher than canned. True, opening a jar of sauce is an easy alternative, but if you take the time to do it from scratch the result is so rewarding. Plus, then you can control what’s in it (read a label of your favorite tomato sauce…you may be surprised that one of the ingredients is often sugar! If you use fresh tomatoes, they are naturally sweet enough that you don’t need to add any sugar. However, if you like it a little sweeter, feel free to add sugar or your favorite sweetener/sugar alternative to taste.)
Note: The measurements in this recipe are really quite superfluous. You can make as small or as big of a batch as you want, and then add spices to taste. Experiment and find your favorite combo of Italian spices! Here’s my favorite classic way to make it:
Classic Tomato Sauce:
You will need:
- 8-10 medium size tomatoes
- 2-3 cloves garlic (or more, depending on how garlicky you like it!)
- A splash of good olive oil
- Fresh basil and oregano (you can substitute dried if you don’t have fresh)
- A few tablespoons of tomato powder, if you can find it (otherwise tomato paste works great too)
- A pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
- One small hot pepper, diced super small, or red pepper flakes (optional)
- A few teaspoons of sugar (optional)
First, bring large pot of salted water to almost boiling. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the water (use a ladle or hand strainer to place them in the water so that they don’t splash. You can also put the tomatoes in the water before heating, but I find they cook a little better if placed into boiling water). While the tomatoes are boiling, prepare a bowl of ice water that is large enough to accommodate all the tomatoes.
Boil the tomatoes until you see the skins split (smaller tomatoes will cook faster than larger ones.) When the skins begins to split, remove the tomatoes with a strainer or slotted spoon and immediately place into the ice bath. Let sit until the tomatoes are cool enough to handle. Then remove and discard the skins, placing the skinned tomatoes into a saucepan. Heat the tomatoes on medium heat and mash them with a fork or potato masher (you can also put them into a blender before heating if you like your sauce smoother or thinner. I like mine chunky.) Add the tomato paste or tomato powder one tablespoon at a time, letting it fully dissolve and incorporate before adding more. Keep adding the paste/powder until it reaches your desired thickness (three or four heaping tablespoons works for me if I’m using about 8 medium size tomatoes). Add the chopped garlic, hot pepper or pepper flakes, olive oil, sugar (if using), and a teeny pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg (that’s my Nana’s secret ingredient for her spaghetti sauce!). If you are using dried herbs, add them now. If using fresh, add a little bit now, but save most of them and add right before serving to preserve the fresh flavor. Turn the heat down low and let the sauce simmer at least 15-20 minutes, or longer at a lower temp if you have the time. The longer you let it simmer, the more the garlic and herbs can get acquainted with the tomatoes and create a deep and meaningful relationship.
And that’s it! This sauce is just a base, or a good foundation to get you started. Dress it up however you like. I love to add sauteed bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Or try adding your favorite meat/protein.
This sauce seems to taste even better the next day, so this is a good one to make when you have the time and then reheat it when you want to eat it. Once prepared, it should keep at least 4-5 days in the fridge, or for a few months in the freezer. I love to make a huge batch of this sauce in the summer when tomatoes are fresh and in season (i.e. cheaper and more delicious!) and then freeze it in small containers so I can just take one out and thaw it when I want it. If you’re into canning (first of all, go you!), this sauce cans and preserves very well. And then you can have that fresh summer tomato taste even in the middle of winter.
This sauce is great on any kind of pasta, as a spread on crostini, or my personal favorite, on spaghetti squash! As a bonus, here’s the basics on cooking one up for yourself:
You will need:
One spaghetti squash (duh)
With a sharp knife, cut the squash in half (lengthwise) and scrape out the seeds. Place the halves flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 375°F for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. You’ll know it’s done when a fork punctures the flesh easily. Let cool for a few minutes, or wear an oven mitt so that you can hold it without getting burned. Then, with a fork, begin scraping the flesh in long strokes to get the spaghetti strands. Transfer immediately to serving dish or individual bowls.
You can also bake the squash whole if you like or if you don’t have a sharp enough knife to cut it safely. It’s a little easier, but it does take extra time. Bake at 375°F, whole, for about an hour, or until the skin can be punctured with a fork. Wait for it to cool completely to where you can handle it easily without getting burned. Then cut it in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and scrape it as normal to get the strands.
Toss the strands with salt and your favorite sauce. Sometimes I like just a little salt and pepper, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, or, even better, with my homemade spaghetti sauce. Top it off with some fresh basil and feta cheese crumbles, and enjoy!
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