Monday, September 30, 2013

Fresh Tomato and Herb Marinara Sauce (and fresh ricotta)

I don't think I've ever made marinara sauce the same way twice. It all has to do with what I have on hand, if I want a meat sauce, what spices I want in there, etc. This comes about as close to my "original" marinara sauce. It uses fresh tomatoes, basil, and parsley. I think the fresh herbs really makes this superb, but I'll admit I usually use dry herbs for my sauces.

I had a bunch of tomatoes to use up and was deciding between jarring salsa or marinara sauce, and in the end it came down to the fact that I also have tons of fresh basil and the fact that we just use marinara sauce all the time - be it for pasta, chicken, veggies, etc. I got 3 pints of this sauce in jars and used the rest to make a yummy pasta dish for lunch.

I started by peeling the tomatoes using the boil method - just boiling them until you see a crack in the skin and then plunging them in cold water to stop the cooking. Then you can easily take the peel off the tomato. If you try to jar the skins of the tomatoes, they will usually get kind of tough and not very palatable as the jars sit.

My tomato peeling set up 

Then to make the sauce I start with onions. I used both red and yellow onions in this, just because I had them and I think the red onions add a little sweetness. I sauteed them in some extra virgin olive oil until they were pretty soft. Then I added an ingredient that most people might not have in their homes, but I do, and it seemed the perfect fit. Baby food carrots. I usually add some carrots to my marinara to add some sweetness without adding sugar, and the fact that these were already pureed and my baby girl doesn't eat them it just worked out perfect! If I had fresh carrots, I would have used them, but this is perfect for a little sweet to off set the acid in the tomatoes and get more veggies in!

Red and yellow onions


The I added some red wine. Always always always add red wine to your red sauce. It gives it such good flavor and depth. I also added in some dried oregano at this point because I didn't have that fresh.

The carrots in the pot
 Then I add in the tomatoes. I add them whole, so that I won't lose a bunch of juice trying to cut them up. once they are in the pot I can mash them with a potato masher or just poke at them with my spoon, which is what I did here.

I then chopped and added my fresh herbs - basil and parsley. I ended up with almost a cup of chopped basil and half a cup of parsley. 

Then I added a bit of salt and pepper, and let it all boil together for a few minutes. Since I don't seed my tomatoes, the sauce can be kind of thin, so letting it reduce a little really helps.

Then into my hot, sanitized pint jars it went. I made sure to make the biggest mess possible, because it isn't good food unless there is a mess involved. I processed the jars for about 10 minutes.

Canned up

Boiling, then ready for a busy day!

Now, let me tell you about my new discovery. Homemade ricotta cheese. Now, this isn't real ricotta. Real ricotta comes from a second boiling of whey after making some other cheese. This is a quick, easy shortcut though, and beats any ricotta I've gotten at the store. Plus, I can chose the milk it comes from, and know everything that is going into it in my own kitchen.

You just start with 8 cups of milk, 2 teaspoons of salt, and heat it to 180 degrees, much like with yogurt. Then you remove it from the heat and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of regular vinegar. You let it sit for 10 minutes, undisturbed, and then strain it all through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I let mine sit for about half an hour - the longer it sits, the drier the ricotta will be.

 After making it, I put some in the fridge for later plans, but I also added about 1/3 cup to the rest of my sauce.

Mmm creamy goodness
Which resulted in this super delicious and nutritious sauce for some pasta I made for lunch!

Kid approved!

He is saying "pasta!"

They both asked for thirds!

Seriously, she is so darn cute. 

Yaya for fresh pasta sauce!

Fresh Tomato and Herb Marinara Sauce

9-10 medium sized tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 whole, large onion (red, yellow, or a combo)
red wine
1 jar baby food carrots, or one carrot finely chopped
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup fresh, chopped parsley
1 cup fresh, chopped basil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Skin the tomatoes and set them aside. In a large sauce pan add olive oil and saute chopped onions for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add wine and carrots, then add oregano. Add your tomatoes and mash them up a bit with your spoon or with a potato masher. Let this reduce a bit until it is slightly thicker. Add in your fresh herbs, salt, and pepper, and let it boil another 5-10 minutes or so. 

You can jar about 3 pints with about 1 1/2 cups left over for a fresh meal. 

1 comment:

  1. I always add carrots to my sauce, too! That is how my grandma taught me and the idea of adding sugar to balance the acid instead of using carrots seems so silly to me.

    I love your quick and easy ricotta. I'll have to try that next time I am making a lasagna.