easy + healthy meal prep | momma’s marinara

Today marks the official start of Fall! Confession: this is my favorite season and no, it’s not because of #PumpkinSpiceLattes (don’t hurt me!) For me, Fall is all about the crisp air, sweaters, boots, visiting the pumpkin patch to find the PERFECT pumpkin and apple picking. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t swooning over the fact that I get to dress up our little guy in slouchy hats, flannel plaids and all the bandanas too. In our family, each season means a new opportunity to maintain and create family traditions and as new parents, we obviously can’t wait to experience our little guys many firsts this season.

Another Fall highlight? The sweet, sweet warmth of comfort food. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me a good salad and enjoy experimenting with different toppings, dressings and fruit/veg combinations but with the Summer heat gone, I obviously am looking for something less-refreshing and more warm and comforting – like most of us! A big misconception out there is that comfort food = unhealthy food and that could not be more untrue. Comfort food can be greasy, comfort food can be full of unhealthy fats and comfort food can also be super delicious AND satisfying.

One of my favourite dishes to make this time of year is marinara sauce. Believe it or not, this has taken over a year to perfect the recipe. If you’re one of my ever-so-faithful readers (love you all) you already know that I like cooking things in large batches to save time on meal prep later in the week. This sauce is perfect for this and best part of all, you can stockpile containers in the freezer for months on end, to save for those days that you are just too tired to cook and don’t feel like take-out.

You may be sitting here wondering how it took me over a year to perfect this recipe and the answer is quite simple…tomatoes! Good quality tomatoes are the key to a delicious and true italian marinara. After many taste tests, most of which were done by my most honest critic and lovely husband, the secret is DOP certified San Marzano tomatoes. These are easy to find if you live in a city that has an Italian Market such as Angelo’s, Bosa Foods etc. I have also been able to find them at natural food stores too.

“San Marzano tomatoes are the most famous plum tomato to come out of Italy. They are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. In fact while regular round tomatoes usually have four or five locules or seed pockets, plum tomatoes like those from San Marzano have only two.

In San Marzano, the tomato harvest begins in August and runs through September. The crops are very delicate and all the tomatoes are picked by hand at the peak of their ripeness. Because of the close attention to quality, many cooks consider San Marzano tomatoes to be among the best in the world to use in a sauce.

The tomatoes are grown under very specific and strict rules and as such, authentic San Marzano tomatoes will have an official DOP (Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta) on the can or jar, although there are domestically grown versions using the same seed varieties. It’s comparable to the difference between French Champagne and sparkling wine from California. Because of their great flavor and texture, very little has to be done to them upon opening then can.” Thank you for the great breakdown http://www.thekitchn.com 

Introducing Momma’s Marinara…

INGREDIENTS

two cans of San Marzano, DOP certified tomatoes

ten cloves of garlic, finely chopped

one small shallot, finely chopped

seven large basil leaves

three tablespoons of EVVO

quarter cup of red vino

one teaspoon of dried oregano

DIRECTIONS

1) In large saucepan, add your EVVO, garlic and shallots and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, watching carefully to ensure nothing burns – nothing worse than burnt garlic!

2) Drain both cans of tomatoes and empty into mixing bowl, use your hands and smash-up the tomatoes in a bowl before transferring the contents into your saucepan

3) Add in full basil leaves, wine and oregano and let simmer for about 30 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally

4) Remove from heat, and carefully use your hand mixer to blend everything until nice and smooth. If you don’t have a hand mixer, a blender would work too just be careful not to over blend. The sauce should be a creamy, rich and smooth texture

Seriously – how simple is that?! I always have so much fun making this sauce and I swear it’s not just because the recipe calls for red wine! This recipe makes about 12 cups of sauce, so you can easily jar it, freeze it or keep it in your fridge for easy lunch/dinner the rest of the week!

My health hack on this simple yet absolutely delicious recipe is swapping out the pasta noodles for zucchini noodles. Zucchini noodles are a super yummy and healthy alternative and obviously, a great way to get your veggies on the plate with this meal. I use a small hand spiralizer, and use two zucchini per person. Zucchini retains so much moisture, so the best way to cook these noodles is to steam them for a quick two minutes on the stove top. I’ve tried boiling and just heating them in a pan but I found it made the dish super watery. You still get a teeny bit of water in your dish when you steam but very minimal – that’s why I suggest you keep an eye on your sauce to ensure it doesn’t get too thin.

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What is your favourite part of Fall? Do you have any special, fun traditions that you are looking forward to with your little ones? What are some of your most-loved comfort food dishes this time of year?!

As always, thank you so so much for reading! I truly hope you enjoyed my post! Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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