Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Before I discovered how easy and satisfying it is to make your own tomato sauce, I was a “store-bought pasta sauce” girl. Even in Italy, with all the AMAZING ingredients at my fingertips, I still bought pasta sauce at the supermarket. I thought it would be more authentic. It really wasn’t.

But, after making sauce once, even though it wasn’t my best sauce, it was one-hundred times better than the jarred stuff. There was no comparison. Today, my Sunday sauce is almost like a ritual- an absolute must! This sauce will take me through the week. When I’m in a pinch and don’t know what to have for dinner, this sauce will inspire me to make chicken parmesan, calzone’s, and veggie pasta tosses- the possibilities are endless.

The recipe changes constantly, but the base remains the same. Much like my Penne alla Vodka sauce, it begins with peeled canned tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil- but after that, you can be a little creative…

sauteedgarlic

There's no such thing as too much garlic!!!

Tomato Sauce

1 35 ounce can (Italian whole tomatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, crushed red pepper, and any other spices you like- to taste
1/3 cup of red wine

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes.

2. For a chunky sauce, add the whole can of tomatoes to the skillet and bring to a strong simmer. Lower heat, smash tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, or until sauce is thick and chunky. For a smoother sauce, add the can of tomatoes to a food processor, and, using quick pulses, puree the tomatoes. Add to sauce and cook covered under low heat for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add the seasonings and stir well. Add the red wine, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes.

4. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

It’s a very simple sauce but it’s also very delicious. The wine really adds a lot of depth to the sauce and makes it super flavorful. If you wanted, you could cut back on the garlic (if you must!) and add some chopped onions. You could also add a bay leaf with the seasoning and remove once it’s done cooking. Have fun with the recipe- make it your own- and I promise you’ll never pick up the jarred stuff again once you’ve given this sauce a try!

tomatosauce2

This sauce makes a great pizza sauce

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Orecchiette Alla Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

I’ve had many cooking failures in my life. There was the time I tried to make stir-fry. I ran out and bought tons of stir-fry materials including a wok and a “how-to wok” book, got a perfect recipe and went for it. It was a disaster- to say the least. Then there was the time I tried to make filet mignon and puff pastry alla Mickey and Mooch (one of my fav Charlotte-area restaurants). That too was a disaster. The steak was overdone and the pastry was underdone. Quite simply- a failure! Then there was that time I tried to make Giada’s Limoncello recipe. At first it seemed ok but after sitting in my fridge for a week or two, my mom had a sip and it almost made her throw up! (Sorry Mom!!! I really can cook… I swear!!)

However, I moved forward and didn’t give up on cooking- especially when trying to recreate some of my favorite dishes. One of those was Penne alla Vodka. The first time I tried to make it I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The flavors were there, for the most part, but something was off- the consistency and color wasn’t right. I gave up on it for a while but revisited it recently. This time it was a success.

Orecchiette Alla Vodka – serves 6

1 35-ounce can (Italian) whole tomatoes
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes; Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1  tablespoon- chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus 1-2 tablespoons to top

1. Add the can of whole tomatoes and pulse in a mini food processor with quick pulses until it is chunky. Transfer this to a bowl. In the same food processor, chop 8 cloves of garlic until minced. 8 cloves may seem like a bit much but I’m a garlic extremist.

2. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil. Season with salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and pepper to taste- I like my pasta sauces a little on the spicy side. Once they start to boil, add the Vodka and bring to a simmer.

3. Start boiling well salted water for the pasta. I chose to use orecchiette because it’s a really great pasta for saucy dishes and it happened to be the only pasta, besides elbow macaroni, that I had in the apartment. Once the water is boiling add the pasta until it is almost al dente.

4. Once the pasta is almost done, add the cream to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta directly into the pan and toss well. Top with the Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley. Toss to coat evenly. Serve and top with remaining parmesan.

After all was said and done, it turned out really well. Creamy and decadent and oh-so comforting. AND I was shocked at how quick the whole process was. I was sitting down to eat about 20 minutes after I started cooking- that’s shorter than my Sunday tomato sauce recipe (which is amazing and will be up here soon)! I still don’t know what went wrong that night I tried to make it for the first time.  Probably some fluke accident. Either way, I’m really happy I gave it a second chance. Maybe it’s time to revisit that stir-fry…….

Baked Chicken Fingers with Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce

Oven Baked Chicken... Crispy!

Oven Baked Chicken... Crispy!

I’ve really enjoyed blogging over the past month or so and even more than writing them, I’ve enjoyed reading them. It’s such an exciting feeling to find a recipe and be inspired to cook something completely new. Delicious has certainly become my best friend in keeping track of all of my “must-makes”.

On my list were “Oven Baked Chicken Fingers”. They definitely didn’t break the mold, but they were fun to make and were surprisingly delicious (and, thankfully, healthy). Amazingly enough, the homemade honey mustard sauce really turned out to be the star of the day. It was like the first time I made tartar sauce- I wondered why everyone wasn’t making this at home. Now if only I could muster up the courage to try my hand at homemade barbeque sauce…

Oven Baked Chicken Fingers – serves 2

3 thin sliced chicken cutlets, sliced into strips
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tspn pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp course mustard
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl or plate, scramble an egg and put it to the side. Mix the panko with the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder in a plate for dredging. Lightly season the chicken strips with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Dip the chicken strips in the bowl with egg and allow the excess egg to drip off. Then dip the chicken strip into the panko bowl and coat evenly. Do this with all the chicken.

3. Place chicken strips on a wire oven rack and place the rack on a baking sheet. Bake the chicken fingers for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

4. While the chicken is baking, in a bowl whisk the mayonnaise, mustards, and honey. Serve with the Chicken Fingers.

Honey Mustard Sauce... Oh My God!

Honey Mustard Sauce... Oh My God!

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