Last week I had a great meal plan all planned out. The only problem was, I lost my momentum and excitement about some of the meals I had planned, which then left me looking at my pantry trying to come up with other ideas that would be more inspiring to me. Whenever this happens to me, I almost always end up turning to my go-to meal: a quick fresh tomato sauce. This meal is wonderful for a number of reasons:
1) as long as you have a can of tomatoes (or five fresh ones), an onion, a clove of garlic, and some olive oil you’ve got a sauce
2) almost any vegetable you have lying around can be incorporated into this
3) the same goes for many meats
4) it is cheap
5) the whole meal takes 20-30 minutes to make. Promise!
This sauce has been pivotal in my life. It is probably my top comfort food. My mom would often make this kind of sauce on a weeknight for family dinner, but it also could be rapidly expanded to feed the masses when unexpected dinner guests showed up. It was one of the first dinners my mom taught me to make. When I was first starting out on my own after college, I made it all the time in my tiny little studio apartment. It was the first dish I ever cooked for my then-boyfriend, now husband many years ago. And it is a constant favorite with my little ones now too.
It is also a great recipe for bulking up your veggie intake, because the more vegetables you add in, the better it tastes. It is just wonderful. I hope you love it as much as I do.
- 1 28oz. can of tomatoes, preferably diced, or 5 large fresh tomatoes chopped (if you want to spend a little extra time, it will be even better if you peel and seed the fresh tomatoes)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil are all great here)
- White wine (optional)
- ½ lb of pasta (or more, depending on how many people you are serving)
- OPTIONAL VEGETABLE ADD-INS:
- Bell peppers, chopped
- Carrots, peeled and chopped
- Greens (kale, spinach, chard), chopped
- Broccoli or Cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
- Summer squash (zucchini, yellow, bonita), chopped
- Eggplant, peeled and chopped
- OPTIONAL MEAT ADD-INS:
- Italian sausage
- Leftover chicken, diced
- Bacon, diced
- Shell fish
- Start a large pot of water boiling.
- While the water comes to a boil, chop up your ingredients.
- When the ingredients are all ready, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a cast iron (or other heavy) skillet over a medium heat. Note on meat, if you are using meat it will be added at the beginning if raw and towards the end if already cooked. If you are using bacon or sausage, start the process by slowly cooking it in a smaller amount of olive oil to render the fat and use that as the base for the sauce.
- Once the oil is hot, add the onions and dried herbs (and bell peppers and carrots, if using). Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic (and summer squash, eggplant, broccoli, or cauliflower, if using).
- Once you are starting to get that nice smell of garlic, add in the tomatoes (and cooked meat, if using).
- If you’ve got it, add in a good glug of white wine.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and more herbs if desired.
- Turn down to a simmer.
- Whenever the water comes to a boil, add in the pasta and cook until al dente.
- Strain the pasta and throw into the skillet, tossing it in the sauce.
- Serve with parmesan.