Rule of thumb in any cook’s philosophy…Authentic over anything. Nothing against pre-made sauces–there are several kinds in my pantry that I just refuse to live without. And I also understand that sometimes it easier to pour one out of a jar when you are short on time. But for those special occasions where you have the extra 15 or so minutes to whip up your own, I strongly encourage you to do so! Keep in mind, freshness is always appreciated. Not only will it impress your guests to know you took the time to serve a dish with hardly any preservatives, but the authentic version of practically anything just taste better!
The first sauce I ever learned to authenticate was Italian meat sauce. I had just started cooking professionally for a few clients, and one was especially fond of Italian foods smothered in zesty marinaras. At least once a week he requested a lasagna, baked ziti or spaghetti. He was paying me well, and I felt I owed it to him to kiss Preggo goodbye and serve him the real deal. I was pretty nervous about whether or not I could do it on my own until I did some research. I studied a variation of recipes and blogs by Italian chefs and discovered dozens of techniques with a variety of ingredients. Yet, I realized the core of each recipe was pretty standard across the board. First things first, establishing the base. Sauteeing diced onions in olive oil better be the first thing you do if you’re standing in an Italian woman’s kitchen and don’t want to be smacked with her wooden spoon. Next up, the tomatoes. I like to use a few different kinds in the same sauce to give it some complexity. A can of “whole, peeled” tomatoes, a can of crushed tomatoes and a small can of tomato puree to start. Sometimes I use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes too, but not always. FRESH basil and chopped garlic simmering down into the bubbling tomato sauce are so aromatic–it’s around this time that you’ll find yourself pouring up a glass of red wine as the mood transports you to little Italy. For the meat lover’s like myself, this always proves to be my favorite part of the process. The truest Italian recipes call for any kind of ground pork sausage, and or combined with ground beef. I use a half a pound of each. You can always opt out of either and substitute in ground turkey or even ground chicken if you don’t eat red meat. If you are a vegetarian, add in some sliced and sauteed portobello mushrooms instead! I tend to add them in with my meat sauces anyway unless my guests specifically request otherwise.
I incorporate this sauce with so many Italian dishes! Lasagna, baked ziti, spaghetti (or bolognese), gnocchi, spaghetti squash, baked ravioli, goulash just to name a few. I also use the meatless version as the marinara sauce for my chicken parmesan and seafood pasta, which I’ll be blogging in detail about in later posts. (Pictured below)
All in all, this sauce is BRILLIANTLY DELICIOUS and can be used with just about any pasta dish. For the busy moms juggling a big household of hungry mouths, doubling up on this recipe will prove to be a lifesaver. Simply store the extra sauce in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for later days. On those nights when you are exhausted after a long day, have one of your kids thaw the bag of sauce out in warm water an hour before you get home. All you’ll have to do is boil some pasta, reheat the sauce and serve!
For the busy moms juggling a big household of hungry mouths, doubling up on this recipe will prove to be a lifesaver. Simply store the extra sauce in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for later. On those nights when you are exhausted after a long day, call home and have one of your kids put the bag of sauce in a big bowl of warm water to unthaw 30 minutes before you get home. That way, all you’ll have to do is boil some pasta, reheat the sauce and serve!