marcella hazen’s four ingredient tomato sauce

I’m not a superstitious person.  Breaking mirrors?  Walking under ladders?  Black cats crossing my path?  Pppplllbbbhhhh…..whatever!

I do, however, believe in signs.  Ok, this might sound freaky, but when my dad passed away suddenly 16 years ago, my contact lenses would consistently be in the wrong compartments.  You know, the left would be in the right and the right in the left.  I wouldn’t notice, obviously, until I put them in my eyes.  But it occurred more than regularly.  It was incredibly frequent, in fact.  Now, I know it’s possible I was simply rattled by the sudden death of my dad and grief can make us absent-minded, but, really – I’m sure it was a sign.  A little, humorous calling card from Dad that everything would be alright.

When my mom passed away suddenly right after Thanksgiving 2011, I had a house full of people at her home in Michigan for most of a week.  My mom’s alarm clock never went off during that week.  The first morning I was alone in the house, after all the guests and family were gone, the alarm clock went off!  It still gives me chills.  Call me crazy, but that was a sign!!!  Everything’s gonna be alright.

So….the long and short of it, when this recipe appeared in different searches, and different websites three times over the course of a week, well, that’s a sign:  Make This Sauce And Everything Will Be Alright!

Friday night I was short on time because Kat had been at a friend’s house after school, and the weather was crazy: rain, hail, high winds, flooded washes (desert living at its best).  Since my pantry is always stocked with canned tomatoes of some variety or another, butter, kosher salt, and onions, this was my go-to meal plan.

Yes, you heard me:  canned tomatoes, butter, kosher salt, and an onion.  Sounds like it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, but don’t let minimalist fool you.  This sauce is spectacular!  Maybe it’s the butter, but it was intensely creamy and delicious and savory, with great depth of flavor.  And it took me all of three minutes to put in the pan (only because I had to photograph it), and 45 minutes to simmer.  Life doesn’t get more alright than this.  Enjoy!

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Marcella Hazen’s Four Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Recipe Courtesy Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, no salt or herbs added
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half
Kosher salt

To serve
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, butter, onion halves, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat. Crush the tomatoes lightly with the back of a spoon as they cook, and stir occasionally. Simmer very gently for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat appear on the surface of the tomatoes. Remove and discard the onion.

Serve over hot pasta with Parmesan and black pepper, if desired.

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Cook’s Notes:  I also smashed a great, big garlic clove and let it steep with the tomatoes and onions, as well.  And, as you’ll see from the pics, I didn’t use canned plum tomatoes, either.  I used what I had on hand and the sauce was wonderful.  Next time I’ll probably try it with the plum tomatoes and see if “wonderful” could somehow be transformed to “out-of-this-world.”  Not that it matters much.  Wonderful is pretty darn good in my book!

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chicken with pepperoni-marinara

This is the perfect quick ‘n dirty dinner meal.  It’s in my regular rotation, particularly on the nights I’m running late, or behind, or I’ve simply procrastinated myself into a dinner emergency.  My favorite thing about this recipe is the pizza overtone:  cheese, pepperoni, tomato sauce, but without all that thick crust guilt.  The chicken is just a protein bonus!!
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The original recipe calls for regular pepperoni, but this night I happened to have turkey pepperoni on hand.  In my opinion, the turkey pepperoni is every bit as yummy as regular pepperoni (which I admit, I love), and with a lot less fat.  The sodium content is still off the charts in my book, but the recipe calls for a fairly minimal amount of pepperoni and I don’t add any additional salt during preparation.
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So, that’s that:  a quick ‘n dirty blog post for an easy-to-prepare, delicious, healthy dinner even the kids will should love.  Enjoy!
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Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce

Recipe Courtesy: Cooking Light, January 2012

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 16 slices pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I opted for turkey pepperoni this time)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as McCutcheon’s)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (I use whole mozz, sliced)

Directions:

1.  Preheat broiler to high.

2.  Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

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easy homemade marinara

I made this recipe for a friend at school who recently gave birth to her fourth child.  She seems relatively non-plussed by the whole situation.  Apparently I’m the one who’s totally freaked out.  I feel frazzled for her!  So, putting myself in her shoes, I thought, “If I had four kids, what’s the one thing I’d want someone to do for me?”  I mean, before they locked me up in the loony bin.

Cook!

There, that was easy.  So I scoured a bunch of recipes suitable for cooking in large quantities: enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles of all varieties, etc., etc., and I found this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis at The Food Network.  Now, I’ve always been a meat sauce kind of gal.  It’s what my mom cooked.  It’s what I’ve always cooked myself.  To boot, nobody has ever complained when I make spaghetti sauce with meat.  Bam!  So that’s what I’ve always done.  But I always cook with health in mind and I’ve regularly pondered the marinara!

Not knowing whether any of my friend’s kids were averse to meat sauce, I thought marinara would be a safe bet.  The problem was, I made it and gave it away, keeping only what wouldn’t fit in the Tupperware container.

Last night I made a batch I intended to keep all to ourselves and I’m almost afraid to admit I might never make a meat sauce again.  This sauce is so good, so flavorful, so aromatic, so….easy.  The prep is more time consuming than the original recipe indicates (I think they say 10 minutes, but that’s if you’re Giada DeLaurentiis), but if you get all your fine chopping done ahead of time, it all goes together relatively quickly.  Simmer and serve.  Like all good sauces, stews, soups, etc., this one is delicious the day of, but mellows beautifully after a day or two in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marinara

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Directions:

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

***Cook’s Notes: I threw in a small handful of fresh basil leaves close to the end of simmering. Remove with bay leaves before serving. Also, because I was working against the clock on this batch, my “finely chopped” was a little less than fine. After simmering, I ran my emulsion blender through the sauce to smooth out the consistency.