Sunday, November 18, 2012

E is for: Easy Marinara Sauce {and 9 other Make Ahead Freezer Meals}

Once the playoffs ended and the confetti had settled from another amazing World Series run by the Giants, I was so sick of traveling that I was positive I wouldn't be jumping on another airplane for a very long time. So what did I do as soon as I had a few days off? I booked a flight to Seattle.

No, I'm not crazy. I just couldn't wait one more minute to meet my best friend Kimmy's adorable newborn son, Tucker. The three of us spent an entire day together, and I got a first hand look at how much hard work goes into being a mom.

After a day full of feeding, diaper changing, and errand running...the last thing a busy mother wants to worry about is cooking dinner. Fortunately, Kimmy and some of my other Seattle friends formed a group called "Make-Ahead Mamas." Every 6-8 weeks, they get together and cook up a bevy of freezable meals, ready to unthaw for an easy dinner.


Kimmy suggested I come up with some ideas for the MAM's, and I of course jumped at the opportunity! Here are 9 of my favorite make ahead meals (all freezer tested and "e is for eat" approved!) plus a recipe for easy marinara sauce, which is detailed below.

1.) Pulled Pork: I actually made this one last week. Delish. It freezes great, and can be thawed for sandwiches, paninis, breakfast tostadas or just on its own. Freezer instructions: make the pork in the slow cooker as directed and freeze. To serve, thaw in refrigerator and re-heat in microwave.

2.) Chicken Enchiladas: One of my go-to's. I made these for my cousin Erin when she had her baby. Freezer instructions: Make recipe all the way up to baking the enchiladas in the oven. Thaw and bake according to instructions. OR...if you need to save room in your freezer, you can make the sauce and chicken and freeze separately. Thaw and assemble enchiladas with remaining ingredients when you're ready to eat them. (If you prefer red sauce enchiladas, I will be posting a recipe later this week).

3.) Soups! They freeze really well, and are so easy to make. Pictured above is my Carrot soup, and I also love my asparagus, broccoli and kale soup. Both super healthy! Freezer instructions: Just make and freeze! Thaw and re-heat on stove or in microwave.

4.) Mini Quiches: One of my favorite things to freeze is these little egg muffins for easy breakfast on the go. You can totally customize them to your tastes, and they freeze wonderfully! Freezer instructions: I like to put a couple of them in a Ziplock and freeze them that way. The night before, I take out a bag and put it in the fridge so it's ready to go the next day. Pop in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.

5.) Turkey Meatloaf Muffins: Speaking of muffins...these individual meatloaf muffins are adorable and tasty. I made these ones with ground turkey, sun dried tomatoes and shredded zucchini and used chia seeds as a binder to make them gluten free. I also topped them with a Sriracha glaze. (Heart-shapes optional). Freezer instructions: Make recipe fully and freeze in Ziplock bags. Thaw and re-heat in microwave.

6.) Turkey Burgers: Another great turkey recipe is turkey burgers. This one is made with harissa for a little extra kick. (You can make the harissa on your own as I did, or buy it in the store). Freezer instructions: Form raw meat mixture into patties and wrap individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Then freeze wrapped patties in a Ziplock bag. (Note: If doing this, you must use turkey that hasn't been previously frozen). Thaw and cook with your preferred method. (Oven, stovetop, grill, etc).

7.) Mac 'n Cheese: I also made this one for my cousin's freezer, and she said it reheated really well. Freezer instructions: Follow recipe up until the baking part at the end. Thaw and bake in the oven according to recipe.

8.) Pesto! Sticking with the pasta theme...I love making a big batch of pesto and then freezing some of it for future use. You can use it in pasta, on pizza, veggies, or anything that calls for it. I have recipes on the blog for pea shoot and arugula pesto and walnut and watercress pesto (but feel free to sub basil for a more traditional pesto). Freezer instructions: Spoon pesto into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, pop out of tray and store in a freezer-safe bag. It thaws quickly!

9.) Wild Boar Ragu: This is my favorite pasta sauce of all time. (And, it won silver at a local contest!) I recently unthawed some leftovers from when I made this originally, and it was just as good as it was when I ate it fresh. It does take a little work, but it's definitely worth the trouble and you can always sub pork for wild boar. Freezer instructions: Make sauce as directed and freeze. Thaw, heat on stove and toss with freshly cooked pasta!

Now, while I adore the complexity of the Wild Boar Ragu...sometimes a simple tomato sauce is all you need. Sure, you can buy some in the store, but ever since I started really getting into cooking (and especially blogging) I try to avoid jarred or canned "ready made" products. Certainly there are exceptions, but once you realize how easy it is to make yourself, there's no reason to reach for those jars (especially if you keep some in the freezer!)


All you need for this recipe is a little olive oil, onion, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, basil and some seasoning. If you have fresh tomatoes from your garden, you can use those, but I think that a good quality canned tomato works great (and is much easier). If possible, spend the extra couple dollars and go for authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy (look for D.O.P. on the label). It will make a huge difference! They are slightly sweeter and work great in Italian sauces. (Admittedly, I think one of my San Marzano cans was *not* D.O.P....but do as I say, not as I do). Buy crushed if you like a smoother sauce, diced or whole for a chunkier sauce. (And you can always smooth out the sauce with an immersion blender if you can't find the San Marzanos in crushed form).


Heat olive oil in a medium pot and saute onions until translucent. Add carrots and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. (By the way, I think the carrots are the surprise ingredient here...they really add an element of freshness to the sauce, and grating them in the food processor makes this recipe go even faster.)


Add tomatoes and their juices. (Break up with a wooden spoon or potato masher if using whole tomatoes). Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.


Season to taste with sea salt (I used a porcini salt I got from my trip to Chicago), fresh cracked pepper and a few pinches of sugar (to cut down on acidity). Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little heat, add a tablespoon or two of butter for a richer (and buttery) taste. If you like a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to achieve desired consistency. This will make A LOT of sauce. I usually just eat 1/3 of it and then freeze the rest.


Stir in the basil right before serving. If you are planning to freeze the sauce, allow it to cool and then transfer to freezer safe container like tupperware or a heavy-duty Ziplock freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. (At which point, simply thaw, heat and use). If using right away as a pasta sauce, toss with freshly cooked al dente pasta (I used whole wheat linguine) and sprinkle with more basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. (Or, try spaghetti squash for a healthier, paleo and gluten free "spaghetti.")


Think of this as a basic "canvas" for whatever you want to create. It's great on its own over pasta, over Chicken Parmesan or meatballs, on a pizza or as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks. Prefer a bolognese? Dress it up with a 50/50 mixture of ground pork and veal. Want a healthier meat sauce? Try ground turkey or chicken. For a veggie version, try adding sauteed mushrooms or zucchini. The sky's the limit! I hope you enjoy this simple, but delicious tomato sauce. What's your favorite make ahead meal? Leave your ideas in the comment section below.

Easy Marinara Sauce

by Jaymee Sire
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: entree tomato basil Italian

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes (either crushed, diced, or whole)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced (or you can use 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add carrots and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and their juices. (Break up with a wooden spoon or potato masher if using whole tomatoes). Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and sugar. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little heat, add a tablespoon or two of butter for a richer (and buttery) taste. If you like a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to achieve desired consistency. Stir in the basil right before serving.
  4. If you are planning to freeze the sauce, allow it to cool and then transfer to freezer safe container like tupperware or a heavy-duty Ziplock freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. (At which point, simply thaw, heat and use).
  5. If using right away as a pasta sauce, toss with freshly cooked al dente pasta and sprinkle with more basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. (Or, try spaghetti squash for a healthier, paleo and gluten free "spaghetti.")
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4 comments:

  1. I am going to try this! I've been searching for a homemade marinara recipe from scratch!

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    1. Awesome Brittany! The best part is you can add meat, veggies, etc to suit your tastes.

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  2. YAY! So glad to see Make-Ahead Mamas popping up all over the place! Hope you had fun with your friends...that is the most important part! The bonus is going home with meals! Thanks for sharing your "make ahead freezable 'e' meals"...we will definitely be trying them in the near future! check us out on Facebook or our webpage: www.makeaheadmamas.com. ~Claudia Pettis (one original MAM)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Claudia! I linked your guys' FB page above. What a great idea!

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