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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Marinara Sauce

As I have always said, one of the best first steps you can take, toward healthier eating, is to ditch the packaged food and start making things from scratch.  One of the easiest items to make at home is marinara sauce.  What's wrong with buying the canned or jarred variety?  High fructose corn syrup is what's wrong with them.

I do add use table sugar, in this recipe, to combat the acidity of the tomatoes.  Some say you can add some stewed apple or pear to accomplish the same, but I haven't tried that.  Some say you can use baking soda.  I have tried that in tomato soup and it worked.  If you want, you could try about a half teaspoon.  But I also figure that two tablespoons of sugar spread out over one quart of sauce isn't going to make much of an impact.  Two tablespoons of sugar equals 24 grams of sugar.  If you have a half-cup serving of sauce then you are eating three grams of sugar--minimal to my mind.  At this point, my family won't eat it any other way because I let them eat the jarred variety for so long and they want that slightly sweet taste.

You can use this sauce for spaghetti, you can add ground meat for a meat sauce, you can use it for lasagna, stuffed pasta shells, manicotti, cannelloni, I even use it to top my meatloaf and as a dip for our meatloaf instead of ketchup.  Ketchup is so full of high fructose corn syrup (except this brand), but meatloaf is the only meat that I have to have ketchup with, so thankfully this sauce now takes that place.  When we do meatless spaghetti, I like to add some cream to this sauce; it's a wonderful variation.

This recipe will make a little more than a quart.  I like to keep it in a mason jar in the fridge.  I suppose you could make a large batch and freeze it, but be very careful with glass mason jars and allow plenty of room for expansion.  I don't even cap my mason jars until after the contents have frozen solid.

1 med. onion, diced
1 Tb. oil - I use olive oil (buy here)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (I like the petite cut)
1 28 oz. can tomato puree (I use puree rather than sauce because it doesn't list any ingredients other than tomatoes.)
2 Tb. sugar
1 Tb. dried basil
1 Tb. dried Italian herb blend, or a mixture of marjoram and thyme
salt to taste (I probably use ½ teaspoon)

Optional:  I have been adding about 1 - 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar lately, I'm not sure if it enhances the flavor, but I've had this bottle in the fridge for so long I feel I need to use it in something.

Place oil in warmed pan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté till clear, 5 to 10 minutes.  If your family doesn't like onions you can chop them really finely in a food processor and then sauté them for longer, till they are caramel color, they will disappear in the sauce.  This is what I have to do.  But you really don't want to omit the onions as they add sweetness to the sauce.  When the onions are done, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, basil, Italian herbs and salt, and vinegar, if you are using it.  Bring to a boil and then reduce and let it simmer (remember this is not on the lowest temperature, you want to see a few bubbles) for at least 20 minutes, uncovered.

This is a quick easy sauce to make, but I know it's not as convenient as opening a jar.  You may need to think ahead some if you need spaghetti to be a super quick meal.  I plan my meals out by the week and sometimes I will make the spaghetti sauce on the weekend if I know it's on the menu for the week.


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  1. Great! I've been meaning to find a healthier version. I know we'll love this. This is definitely doable. Thanks!

  2. Everyone must try this. It REALLY does taste like the jarred variety. I am one of the timid ones in the kitchen and I did just fine and it didn't take too long to put together.

  3. [...] home.  Make a batch of my French Bread dough, let rise, then roll out on a pizza stone, cover with Marinara and various toppings.  Bake at 400°F for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on how many [...]

  4. I was just reading your recipe for marinara sauce, Shannon. Looks like what I typically do as well. Don't think I could add to it... might tweak it for me, I liked honey in mine, for example. Your comment on that it's not as convenient as the bottled stuff sparked an encouragement to you, maybe it will bring back the old feeling of convenience. Why not quadruple the batch [or bigger], get those old canning jars that everybody's using now for crafts, and can it yourself? It really is easy to do, Sis!! And, the convenience for you is that it's right there in your cupboard any time you want/need it.

    I do "Once A Month Cooking" type things on a regular basis, and when I do use that mentality, I often find that it seems like I have a good "larder" on hand. Having stuff on hand and fairly quick to prepare has caused me to be able to make a dish to share with a family that might have sickness, had a new baby, or in bereavement. I've made up a "Muffin Mix" that's quick, and just as convenient [to me] as the store. I've used it for making Olivia's cake as well, this year. For muffins, it's great! For cake, I need to tweak it some.

    The point, Aunt Sandy!! The POINT!?!?!

    The point is this: If you're able, make stuff up in bulk, can or freeze [zip-loc bags can be frozen flat, unless you don't use plastic]. Then you'll have little "on hand" conveniences for you [and can be a blessing to someone else in the process.

    Thanks for posting, Shannon!! Love you!

  5. That is a good idea. I have considered canning up a big batch, just never got around to it.

    I do like to stay away from plastics as much as I can.

    So far I only stockpile baked goods. I make a lot of muffins and such and freeze them so we can have convenient foods.