Monday, November 28, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

With basil from our garden.  I miss summer already!

Bean is a typical preschooler - he can be a very picky eater.  This week, his requested dinners are spaghetti and sauce, and falafel with carrots and "dip." Spaghetti and sauce has become one of our go-to meals - usually with lentils for The Beast, A-Train, and me....and a big mess for Bean.  (On a related note:  I can't be the only one who embraces and even encourages the toddler/preschooler love of nudity for particularly messy meals?)

I owe a big thanks to my friend K, who gave me the idea to add lentils.  I was struggling with how to make this meal part of our regular meatless rotation, when I had lunch at her house!

In any case, this spaghetti sauce is pretty quick (in terms of doing stuff - it can and sometimes should cook for hours) and simple using canned tomatoes (I'd rather use fresh, but my home-grown tomatoes are not always successful, and fresh tomatoes get expensive otherwise...).

This is another one of those extremely non-specific flexible recipes (i.e. no measurements!).  It is so easy and you can make up a ton of it and store it in the fridge or freezer for later.  I think it is an easy switch from store-bought.

Ingredients:
-olive oil
-a carrot, chopped
-a stalk of celery, chopped
-1/2 to a whole onion, chopped
- a few cloves of garlic (I usually do 6 for the amount of tomatoes I use), minced
-Tomatoes (I usually use two 30oz cans diced, but you can use crushed, dice up fresh, etc.  Do check the sodium levels on the canned variety...it can be shocking, but not as shocking as a jar of store-bought tomato sauce)
- 2 or 3 bay leaves
-oregano (dry or fresh)
-fresh ground pepper
-parsley (dry or fresh)
-basil (dry or fresh)
-fresh greens, if desired - I've done kale and spinach. Add them washed and well-dried, and be very spare with them if you aren't going to have much time to cook down the sauce.

Instructions:
1.  In a large sauce pan (or even a stock pot), add enough olive oil to easily cover the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat and start adding celery, carrot, and onion as you prep them.
2.  Cook until everything is softening a bit.
3.  Mince garlic and add to pan, saute for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes.
4.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir (I usually end up using dry herbs and being liberal with oregano and basil and a little more spare with the parsley.  If you use fresh herbs, no need to worry about chopping them - I have added whole basil leaves, as in the picture above!)
5.  Stir everything together, and then let it simmer for awhile (a couple of hours is ideal).
6.  Remove bay leaves (but don't stress if you can't find them all)
7.  Use a hand blender to puree everything
8.  Allow to simmer longer if you want a thicker sauce.
9.  Enjoy!

A couple of notes:  The sauce will certainly turn colors when you add a lot of various vegetables to it.  And it will also be quite watery if you don't have time to cook it down.  If your kids won't eat an orange sauce (once The Beast added a whollllle lot of kale and the sauce was an unappetizing brown...but it tasted good!), you should try this without the veggies pureed in.  You could leave them as chunks, but Bean actually will not eat them that way.

And I'm betting some of you have really good spaghetti sauce recipes - I would love to hear them!  I am always looking for more/better ideas to make quick healthy meals!
This is the sauce cooked down, before it is pureed.  This particular batch includes half an onion, a celery stalk, a (huge) carrot, two stems of kale (including the trimmed stalk), and dry oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaves.  And, of course, tomatoes.

After being pureed


Over spaghetti, topped with lentils, and accompanied by dinosaur kale


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