My husband is out of town this week, and although it would be much easier to just call for pizza every night or feed the kids cereal, I get a seriously guilty Mommy complex if I do that every night. Coming up with meals to feed just the three of us (only one of us having a fairly reliable appetite, as far as dinner is concerned) is always a bit tricky. One thing I can always count on, that I know my girls will enjoy, is pasta with marinara sauce. They aren’t meatball girls, they aren’t meat sauce girls, they like it plain.
There are plenty of good jarred sauces around now, to be honest. The grocery store selection has actually come quite a long way since I was little! When I get a chance, though, I still like to make my own marinara. The jarred stuff is perfectly fine, but if I’m making my own sauce, I know exactly what’s going into it and, in turn, know exactly what’s going into my family.
This recipe is one of Giada DeLaurentiis’ that I’ve played around with quite a bit. The bones are hers, but I added just a few things that helped it work with our family. It’s easy to put together and when you’re done, you’ll have enough for that night’s dinner and enough to freeze for another time…all for just around the same cost as a decent jar of sauce would be.
I started by sauteing up some diced onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil.
It may look like a lot of oil, but keep in mind, you’re making two quarts of sauce here!
As the onions were cooking up, I diced up some celery and carrot. One reason I was drawn to this recipe originally, was because I felt it was a way I could sneak some more veggies into my girls (one, in particular). It works! I diced these up as tiny as I could, hoping they’d be able to hide in the sauce from the picky one.
(Objects in this photo are actually much smaller than they appear.)
Once the onions and garlic were nice and soft, I added the celery and carrots, along with some salt and pepper. I continued to cook those down until the new veggies had softened up, about 10 minutes.
At that point, I added two large cans of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf, and some basil. I also threw in a tablespoon of sugar, just to sweeten it up a tad.
Once everything was mixed in well, I lowered the heat and let the sauce simmer for about an hour. I stirred it every once in a while, to make sure things were cooking evenly, but other than that, it was hands off.
After an hour, the sauce was nice and thick and my house smelled like a fine Italian restaurant. The girls asked for cheese tortellini, so as the pasta was boiling away, I was able to portion out two more dinners worth of sauce and pop them in the freezer for a rainy day. I had plenty of sauce for our dinner that night and for some leftovers that are in the fridge as well! Can you get all of this from one jar of sauce? I don’t think so!
It may have taken a little bit longer than popping the top off a jar of sauce, but it was worth it. I knew I’d made a healthy, hearty dinner for my girls and they really enjoyed it. Plus, next time I am short on time and want to just pop open a jar of sauce, I can open up my freezer instead!
HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- In a large pot, heat the oil up over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute, for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the celery and carrots. Stir in the salt and pepper. Continue to saute until the veggies are soft, about 10 more minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes, basil, bay leaf and sugar. Stir to combine, and simmer uncovered until sauce is nice and thick, about an hour.
- Remove and discard the bay leave. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- The sauce freezes well! Makes just about 2 quarts of sauce.