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While I’m usually a pretty good and conscientious shopper and try to keep our spending close to the same amount each week, our weekly grocery bill could benefit from some downsizing. (Who’s grocery bill couldn’t?) One of the ways I’ve been trying to achieve this is by making several things we use regularly from scratch as often as I can. It’s cheaper and healthier. It’s also not feasible for me to make everything from scratch, but there are certain items I’ve targeted as ones to strive to make as often as I can. Macaroni and cheese, muffins, salad dressing, and tomato sauce are among them.
We like Prego’s Three Cheese Sauce best, which is usually around $2.99 a jar in my supermarket. That seems a little pricey for me, given my new scrutiny of our grocery bill, so I decided to make my own sauce. (I know … I’ve rarely bothered to make tomato sauce from scratch, usually claiming that I had “no time.” But this recipe negates all that because it doesn’t take much time at all. Certainly not $2.99 worth.)
A few weeks ago, I’d purchased some tomatoes from a farmer’s market and they had reached that point when they had to be used that day or be tossed the next. So, I decided to make Marinara Sauce in the crockpot using this incredibly easy recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (This is one of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks.) Use a medium round or oval slow cooker for this. (I used a 3 quart, which was fine.)
1/2 cup olive oil, or half olive oil and half unsalted butter (( used all olive oil)
1 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
two 28 oz. cans whole plum tomatoes, with their juice, or 3 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, seeds squeezed out and cut into chunks
3 oz. (half of a 6 oz. can) tomato paste
pinch of sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Over medium heat in a medium size skillet, heat 3 tbsps. of the oil, then cook the onion and garlic, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Transfer to the slow cooker, add the remaining olive oil, the tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.
3. Season the sauce with salt and pepper (I added a little oregano and basil too.) If using canned tomatoes, use a handheld immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the insert; if using fresh, puree with the fine disk of a food mill to remove the tomato skins. If not serving the sauce with hot pasta immediately, return to the cooker where it will stay warm on LOW for a few hours. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week or frozen for two months.
This didn’t have the deep red color I was looking for – it actually seemed more tomato bisque-ish to me, but since we happen to love tomato bisque, that wasn’t a problem. We liked this sauce a lot – it made enough for our pasta for two nights, and a have a container in the freezer that would be sufficient for another two plates of pasta.
What about you? Do you have a recipe for something made from scratch that was previously a store-bought item? If so, stop by Weekend Cooking … I’d love to see it (and so would my grocery bill too.)