Homemade Marinara Sauce

My husband loves pasta.  As a student and then a bachelor, he used a lot of bottled sauces from the grocery store.  In fact, he still buys them, because he “likes to have them on hand just in case”.  Just like 200 rolls of toilet paper and an extra 4 L jug of milk (some scars from childhood, I suspect…).  Well, once you start reading the labels on many of the jarred sauces, they really should be a “just in case” sort of thing, and not a regular menu item (lots of salt!!!).

So, when the kids were little, I started trying out recipes to make my own marinara.  It turned out it wasn’t too hard, just chop some onions, some garlic, add some tomatoes and fresh basil and you are all set.  I have made it with fresh tomatoes, frozen tomatoes and canned tomatoes (here is a link to make your own!).  Frozen are great when you have them on hand; fresh are a lot of work (with frozen ones, you are splitting up the work), and canned taste just fine too.  I make a large quantity of the sauce and then freeze it in canning jars.

Marinara Sauce for meatballs, pizza sauce, or for with seafood

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 medium yellow onions, finely diced (don’t use the food processor, the onions will end up bitter)

8-10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I use a razor-grater similar to this one)

2 whole roasted red peppers (you can use jarred ones, I roast mine in the oven, and then peel off the skin and then freeze them), chopped

6-28 ounce cans whole tomatoes in their juice (no salt added) or 4-5 litres of frozen tomatoes, thawed

10-12 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

2-3 tsp salt flakes

1 tsp ground black pepper

1.Over mesh colander, strain cans of tomatoes, and break up tomatoes, removing any hard cores or bits of skin. Put sorted tomatoes back into juice.  Set aside

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, cook onions (stirring only occasionally) until soft (5-7 minutes).  Less stirring will help the onions grow sweet with cooking.  Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes, or until fragrant (don’t let garlic burn).

3. Add chopped roasted red peppers, and cook 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and juice, salt flakes and pepper.  Bring to a low boil, turn heat down and simmer 45 minutes.

4.  Using an  immersion blender (or in batches in your regular blender), carefully puree sauce, making sure to break up any large pieces.  Add basil leaves.  Continue cooking 10-12 minutes.

5. Ready to serve!  Or store in airtight containers (I use glass canning jars, leaving adequate head room at the top for expansion), in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Makes about 5 litres of sauce.  I put mine in 250ml, 500ml and 1 litre jars so I always have access to the right amount of sauce for different types of meals (or numbers of people!).

A collection of hard work, including 4.5 litres of marinara sauce

A collection of hard work, including 4.5 litres of marinara sauce



Christmas Meatballs

 No, we don’t have meatballs as part of our Christmas dinner, or even part of our Christmas eve dinner (which is usually mostly seafood and fish)…But they are part of our Christmas traditions.  A number of years ago, when the kids were still very little, we began having spaghetti and meatballs for supper on Boxing day.  Tthe Holidays can be full of very rich food and while much of it tastes good to children, it isn’t what they are accustomed to on a daily basis.  Celebrations during other times of the year include rich foods as well, but few of them go on for days and days like the week between Christmas eve and New year’s day.  Multiple turkey dinners, or other rich meals can leave little ones fed up with eating.  Or (as has been our case more than once), they pick and choose and only eat what they recognize…Our daughter one year, at nothing but blueberries and chocolate on Christmas day…I am sure you don’t want the details of the end of the day.  (altho she will gladly tell you if you ask her!)

 When my daughter was one and my son three, we made Boxing day a family day.  It didn’t mean that out of town guests couldn’t join us, but what it did mean was that we were doing Kid Friendly activities (that our children were accustomed to doing) and eating Kid Friendly meals.  It has become an almost annual tradition: a walk around Pipers Lagoon, and some time on the Beach and then home for movies and spaghetti and meatballs for supper.
Since then, we have added a couple more Family oriented activities that we do over the holidays, including an evening of bowling with our very close family friends, that involves an early evening of bowling (usually Boys against the Girls) followed by dinner at a Kid Friendly restaurant.  We also try and include a trip to the ice rink (because we don’t spend enough time there already!) or the swimming pool.

After 7 years of making other people’s meatball recipes, this year I spent some time perfecting my own recipe.  I don’t like the taste that can come from using bread crumbs, so I use a slice of whole wheat sandwich bread torn into small pieces.  I find that using milk makes the mixture mushy and it adds nothing to the flavour.  The addition of ricotta cheese, mixed with fresh ground parmesan is awesome.  Even my kids appreciate it (“ooh Mumma, they taste all creamy and cheesy and yummy” according to my daughter).  
And inspite of the fact that I have spent 35 years avoiding eating veal (yes, anyone who has known me that long will attest to that, even my husband who once witnessed me send back my plate at an Italian restaurant, because it didn’t say on the menu that there was veal in the meatballs…Poor Rob!) 

I still don’t use veal…I just couldn’t bring myself to.
So instead, equal parts ground sirloin, medium ground beef and ground pork.  This recipe uses 1lb of each.  And of course, some good olive oil.  Yes, my children may never get to Disney Land, but they know what good Olive oil tastes like and they know that parmesan cheese doesn’t come from a can!

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchement paper.

  • 1 lb each: ground sirloin, medium ground beef and ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice whole wheat sandwich bread , torn into small pieces.
  • 6 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp rubbed oregano
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil chopped
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley chopped

Combine ground meat, eggs, bread pieces, ricotta cheese, parmesan, and spices in a bowl and set aside.  Put olive oil in medium skillet and heat until just shimmering.  Add onion and cook over medium heat for three minutes, add garlic and continue cooking, carefull not to burn the garlic (otherwise start all over again), for another 3-4 minutes.  Once onion and garlic and soft and fragrant, remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil.  Add onion mixture to meat mixture.  (some at this point may want to use gloves).  Mix, by hand the meatball mixture, ensuring even distribution of the onion mixture and

the bread.
If making ahead, at this point, you could stop and refrigerate up to overnight.
Using a food scoop (I use the 1/4 cup size), scoop out meatball mixture and place on prepared cookie sheets.  My cookie sheets (I have large ones) hold about 15-18 large meatballs.
Bake for about 20 minutes.  I usually check the first batch after 18 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheets to platters lined with paper towel.  Let sit on platters for 5-7 minutes, then either use with your marinara sauce or freeze for later!
Makes up to 65 meatballs, depending on the size of scoop you use.  (I get about 48).

These can be used for spaghetti and meatballs, or for meatball subs or they go great in soups for adding protein.

Happy packing!


This post is linked to 33 Shades of Green Tasty Tuesdays