There’s something so deliciously satisfying about serving a meal that you made from scratch. I beam like a little schoolgirl when I place my homemade meal in front of my hubby. He appropriately smiles and ooh’s and ahh’s and I know my act of love has been accepted.
It’s easier than you might think to make things from scratch. But it can seem daunting at first. One of my favorite quick week-night meals is pasta. I make it in a myriad of variations and the possibilities are endless. I once made an Alfredo sauce that was to die for – but knowing how much cream cheese went into it made me worry for our coronary heath. So, that’s a once a year sort of meal. Okay, like three times a year but let’s not get crazy.
A simple red sauce is quite easy to make. From the base you can add cheeses, creams, spices etc. to make it whatever type of sauce you’re craving. Here is my go to base:
*Please note I am a “by feel” cook and I guestimate most of my homemade meals. Start with a few spices, taste, and add as you desire. The more you do this, the more you’ll get a feel for how much of something to add from the start.
PREP: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 10 minutes SERVES: 4-5*
*(Perfect for hungry hubby, guests, or left overs)
- 2 8 oz cans of Hunts tomato sauce (Hunts uses steam to peel tomatoes rather than chemicals – GO HUNTS)
- 1 14.5 oz can of Hunts diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 1/4 tsp Chili powder
- 1/3 cup diced onion (more if you love onion)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (substitute 1/4 tsp garlic powder, if needed)
- 1 summer squash, peeled and chopped
- 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 or 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1-2 handfuls baby spinach, chopped roughly
- 1 TBS Olive Oil
- Heat 1 TBS Olive Oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. When shimmering, but not smoking, add the diced onion and garlic into the pan. Stir constantly to make sure garlic doesn’t burn. Saute for about 1-2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and onions starts to soften. *Note, I throw these in to cook while I peel and chop the other veggies.
- Add in chopped veggies – squash, zucchini, bell pepper – and sauté until veggies are tender, about 4-5 minutes. *You can add whatever veggies you like, but these blend well and I hardly know I’m eating veggies!
- Add in Italian Seasonings, chili pepper and black pepper, stir to coat all veggies. If you are substituting garlic powder, add it here. Let cook while you open up the cans of tomatoes.
- Add in tomato sauce and drained diced tomatoes – you might want to turn down the heat before you do this so the tomato sauce doesn’t splatter all over your favorite white shirt. Experience is a great teacher.
- Add in the salt gently – there’s nothing worse than an over salted dish. But also nothing worse than an under-seasoned one either! Here is where you will add more of whatever spices are needed.
- Toss in the chopped spinach and stir it in so it’s under the nice hot sauce. Let it sit there and get nice and wilty while you drain the pasta and get ready to eat.
- NOTE: if you are cooking ground beef/pork you can cook that first, set it aside and saute the veggies in the brown delicious bits left in the pan. This really adds flavor. Same if you sauté some chicken and set it aside to rest. Re-add the meat at the end.
- If it doesn’t taste “pasta saucy” enough, add in more Italian seasoning
- If it tastes too “tomato saucy” add in a dash of salt.
- If it’s missing “depth of flavor” try adding some garlic powder.
- If all else fails, add cheese. :)
- You can add in some heavy cream to make it a smoother creamy sauce. I do this when I’m feeling fancy.
- You can add in grated Parmesan cheese – note that this makes it a little lumpy sometimes, but also tastes great!
- Add cream AND cheese – mind blown!
- Add a bit of cayenne to heat it up, add in cream, a dash of wine (sherry or the real stuff) and BAM, you have FANCY pasta sauce and your husband will declare “Let’s never eat out again!” and you’ll re-think this whole cooking from scratch thing.
SCALED DOWN VARIATION:
If you’re cooking for one and you don’t want leftovers for a week (who does, really?) here is a fun variation:
- Spray PAM into a skillet, let it get really hot (smokin’) and toss in half a package of cherry tomatoes. Let them get blackened on all sides – shaking the pan occasionally.
- When they are bursting, smush them with your spatula (again, avoid wearing a white shirt).
- Add in the 8 oz can of tomato sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, 2-dashes chili powder, 2-dashes garlic powder, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/4 tsp Italian Seasoning.
- Add a dash of cream, and a dash of sherry or wine (if you have it, if not don’t sweat it).
- Chop some spinach and throw it in, add your favorite protein, serve over pasta and enjoy!
There you go – a myriad of pasta variations! I think once you give it a try you’ll be sold – it’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s sugar and preservative free, so really, what’s not to love? And just think how you will impress your friends and family with your mad skills. Amazing.
Just as an FYI here are some quick facts on the top three store-bought pasta sauces and links to their nutrition info:
- Prego Traditional
- 10 grams in 1/2 cup
- Sugar is 3rd ingredient
- Classico Cabernet Marinara
- 6 grams in 1/2 cup
- Sugar is 5th ingredient (only 2%)
- Ragu Marinara
- 7 grams per 1/2 cup
- Sugar is 6th ingredient
Happy pasta sauce making!