Homemade Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

I make a lot of pastas and pizzas…. A LOT.

But I can’t help it – I’m Italian! Well, pretty sure I was in a past life at least.

So when a gal cooks a ton of pastas and pizzas, a gal has got to have a trusty marinara sauce that she can rely on. And I just so happen to have a great one that’s quite easy to make, especially in large batches.

Here’s how….

First, wrangle up some basic ingredients. A few aromatics, a couple of herbs & spices and of course, tomatoes. I prefer San Marzano tomatoes but any canned plum tomato will be fine.

Marinara Sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and cook down some onions and garlic. Throw in some red chili flakes, oregano, fennel seeds and cook for an additional minute or two.

Marinara Sauce

While the aromatics are doing their magic, crush up a few cans of tomatoes. And because it’s fun to play with your food, I use my hands to do this.

Marinara Sauce

Add the crushed tomatoes and the juices to the pot and stir in some chopped Italian parsley and bay leaves.

Marinara Sauce

Simmer the ingredients, partially covered until it has reduced and thickened.

Marinara Sauce

Add the basil and puree the ingredients until smooth. Season with additional salt, pepper and that’s it!

Marinara Sauce

Simple to make and a delicious addition to any recipe that calls for a marinara. The sauce also freezes beautifully so you can always have it on hand.

Marinara Sauce

Told ya it was easy.

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Marinara Sauce
Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 28-ounce cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes (or standard plum tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
kosher salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar, as needed

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until they have become soft and translucent. Stir in the red chili flakes, oregano, fennel seeds and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

While the aromatics cook, pour the tomatoes into a large bowl with its juices. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes and discard any tough core pieces that may remain. Pour the crushed tomatoes and juices into the pot. Stir in the parsley and bay leaves. Allow the contents to come to a soft boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 30-40 minutes, occasionally stirring. Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Using an immersion blender (or standard blender), puree the sauce until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Depending on the tomatoes, you may need to add a bit of sugar to cut down some of the acidity.

The sauce can be used immediately or can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days. You may also freeze the sauce for up to a few months, however, this recipe is not intended for pressure canning/jarring. Pressure canning/jarring recipes require a high amount of acidity to avoid harmful bacteria.

 

Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Caprese Sandwiches

I recently had a two week stint gorging myself on fresh, sweet, summer heirloom tomatoes. I just couldn’t help it–DELICIOUS and so colorful!

I had to take advantage of the few short weeks left of summer when these beauties are best here in San Diego and enjoyed them in salads, over pizzas, as a condiment (pico de gallo), as a light side dish and of course– in sandwiches.

Caprese Sandwiches

One of my fav go-to “salads” is Insalata Caprese which usually consists of tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and olive oil. I also like to serve them as appetizers by making little caprese skewers and use sweet grape tomatoes instead of tomato slices.

Caprese Sandwiches

For a light lunch, I grabbed a few heirlooms I had picked up earlier that morning to make Caprese Sandwiches. These sammies have all of the traditional fixins’ of Insalata Caprese with the addition of a rich and thick reduction of balsamic vinegar. The reduction adds a light sweetness and acidity to the sandwich which pairs so well with the cool tomatoes, velvety mozzarella and floral basil.

Total winner and can be whipped up Lickety- Split…..

In a jiffy……

In a blink of the eye……

In the speed of light…..

In no time flat……

……… Really fast. You get the point.

Did I mention these would be FAB for picnics?

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Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 pinches sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 ciabatta rolls, toasted (or bread of your choice)
8-10 fresh whole basil leaves, washed and dried
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2-3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
sea salt or kosher salt

In a small sauce pan, add the vinegar, sugar and chili flakes. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Continue stirring and cooking until the liquids have reduced by half and take on the a thick, syrup consistency. Be sure to watch the reduction closely as it can burn quickly. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

Slice each of the toasted rolls in half. Place half of the basil leaves on the bottom piece of bread and top with a few slices of cheese. Drizzle some of the balsamic vinegar reduction over the mozzarella and top with slices of tomato. Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the tomatoes and place the other 1/2 of the roll on top. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna + Nambé GIVEAWAY

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

When I was living in LA for grad school, my roommates and I would often find time between classes and work to make dinner together. They were modest meals that came out of our tiny kitchen and on our grad student budgets– but they were always fun and memorable. Especially because we barely had any cookware or pans!

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

One pot meals were a necessity and boy did we come up with some doozies! A million different types of fried rice, stroganoffs, breakfast scrambles, stir-frys, and one of my tried and true favorites—skillet lasagnas.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

Skillet lasagnas were perfect! Not only were they delish and filling but you literally only needed a pan and one stove top burner to make it.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

No ovens, no baking dishes and no extra pots needed to boil the noodles ahead of time. Just the thing when you’re short on time—and cookware.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

So when I got my little hands on this gorgeous sauté pan from our friends at Nambé, nostalgia kicked in and I had to give it a roll.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

Nambé’s new cookware line is FANTABULOUS! Sturdy, heats evenly, easy to clean and is just so pretty. Since they’re so snazzy, you can move them directly from the stove to the dining table! Cookware to Serveware? Where were you when I was in grad school?!

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

And since you are the sunshine of my day, YOU will have the chance to win a set of four (4) of their new CookServ Sauté Pans (8, 10, 12 and 14 inches) courtesy of the awesome team at Nambé! Check out these beauties:

CookServ-SautePans-web

Nambé has partnered with several different blogs for this joint giveaway of these stunning pans that are retailed at 650 buckaroos. Want to know how to win?

It’s Easy-Peasy!

Simply click on the following link to enter the Nambe Giveaway powered by Rafflecopter

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

ps. Whether you have only one pan in your pantry or a dozen, you’ll really want to make this Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna. Sooooooo yummmyyy!

pps. Don’t forget to enter this rad giveaway and BEST-O-LUCK!!!

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Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna
Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
2 cups sliced crimini mushroom
1 cup diced white onions
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 16-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
10 ounces dried lasagna noodles (about 2/3 of a regular sized box)
1½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

In a large skillet that has a lid; heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat. Removed the casing from the sausage and add to the skillet. Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage and cook until lightly brown. Add in the mushrooms and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. Remove the sausage and mushrooms to a clean plate.

Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook the onions until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute before adding in the tomato paste. Allow the mixture to cook for an additional minute to allow the items to become aromatic. Transfer the sausage and mushrooms back to the skillet and stir to combine.

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes with its juices until smooth.

Break the lasagna noodles into 1-2 inch pieces and layer on top of the ingredients in the skillet. Pour the pureed tomatoes and chicken stock over the noodles. Allow the liquids to come to a slight boil. Cover and simmer the lasagna for 20-25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Continue cooking until the noodles become al dente.

Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and lay pieces of mozzarella over the top. Garnish with basil leaves and serve warm.

**If you would like a bit of crunch, turn on your oven broiler after placing the mozzarella cheese and place the skillet about 4 inches away from it. Allow to brown for about 30-45 seconds but be sure to keep an eye on it to avoid burning the lasagna.

Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

Living in California, I have the great privilege of having delicious and authentic Mexican food at my fingertips. Dishes that celebrate the complex flavors of spices, chilies, bright herbs and sauces. L-O-V-E it!

To wash all the goodness down, I usually gravitate towards a well crafted margarita or cerveza. However, when I’m looking for something non-alcoholic to go along with my fav Mexican dishes, I opt for Aguas Frescas. Light, refreshing and a perfect compliment to the spices and heat.

Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

My favorite type of Aguas Frescas is Tamarindo (tamarind) but with all the beautiful watermelon in season, I thought it would make a great alternative. I also threw in some fresh basil leaves to add a layer of herbaceous flavor and it was wonderful!

Super Easy. Super Refreshing. And Super Delicioso!

And with that—Have a Great Weekend, Friends!

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Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

Ingredients:

8 Cups Fresh Watermelon, roughly chopped
6-8 Large Basil Leaves
1 Cup Chilled Water
1/4 Lime Juice
Simple Syrup (optional)

In a blender, add watermelon, basil, water and lime juice. Blend until smooth. If additional sweetness is needed, add simple syrup 1 tablespoon at a time. Pour liquid through a sieve to strain. Serve chilled.

Breakfast Pizza + Nambé Giveaway WINNER!

Breakfast Pizza

You could throw an egg on anything and it would be freaking delicious. Sandwiches, ramen noodles, pasta, rice……

Seriously.

Breakfast Pizza

So when I dived into Motorino’s Pizza al’ Uovo on my recent trip to NYC— I was in HEAVEN. Oooey-gooey fried eggs that just spilled into a crisp pizza covered with pancetta, basil and pecorino. SOOO good! I was hell bent on making my own version when I got home though I did make a few ingredients substitutions based upon my personal flavor preference. True– it’s nearly impossible to achieve the same type of crust that a wood fire oven can produce but overall I was very happy with it. You’ll be surprised to see how easy this is to make and it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at your next brunch party.

But now for what you all have been waiting for….the winner of the fabulous Nambé Fish Platter

Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Jessica who said she would serve Gambas al Ajillo on the Nambé Fish Platter. Jessica, you will have until 5pm PST on Wednesday, July 25th to respond to our email and accept or another winner will be selected.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And THANK YOU Nambé !

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Breakfast Pizza
Serves 2

Dough:
1 Cup Lukewarm Water
1 Packet Instant Yeast
2 Cups Bread Flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ Tablespoon Sugar
*Makes approximately 3 medium-sized pizzas

Toppings:
1 Tablespoon Corn Meal
Olive Oil
2 Large Eggs, crack into individual small bowls
2 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella, sliced and patted dry
4-5 Slices Bacon, par cooked and cut into large pieces
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Basil Leaves
Black Pepper

Prepare the pizza dough. Combine the water with the yeast and let set for 10 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and bubbly. Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the yeast-water and mix until the ingredients have just combined. Cover and allow to rest in a warm area until it doubles in size—about one hour.

One hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a pizza stone on the lower rack. If cooking the pizza on a baking sheet, preheat 30 minutes before baking.

When the dough has rested, take approximately 1/3 of the dough and flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to gently roll the crust about 1/8 of an inch. Transfer the dough to a pizza peel (if baking directly on stone) or onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Gently brush the crust with olive oil.

Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. If using a pizza peel, carefully slide the pizza in the oven on the stone. If using a baking sheet, place pizza in the oven. Par bake for about 6-8 minutes until slightly golden. Pull from the oven and carefully pour the eggs on top. Place the fresh mozzarella cheese and bacon around the pizza and sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese. Return to oven and continue baking for an additional 6-8 minutes or until the eggs have just set and the bacon has crisped. When done, remove the pizza and top with fresh basil leaves and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

For a good chunk of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes.

I thought they were mealy and rather “bleh” in flavor. I’d pick them out of salads, burgers, well….pretty much out of everything.

And you know what the problem was? For the first 20+ years of my life, I was eating BAD tomatoes!

Because when you take a bite out of a gorgeous tomato at its peak in the season, it’s absolutely delicious! They’re sweet and juicy with the right balance of acidity. And last summer, I even found myself growing the most beautiful Early Girl Tomatoes via our Topsy Turvy. (For the record, the Topsy Turvy is awesome!)

Needless to say, I was missing out for so many years!

 

 

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are in Bruschetta. The simplicity of ingredients paired with the herbaceous basil  really highlights the true flavor of the tomato. On its own, it’s quite fabulous but I decided to add a spin by throwing in some smoked mozzarella cheese I stumbled on at my local specialty market. It was perfect!

And on warm summer nights like we’ve been having, I could eat Bruschetta every day! Mom would be proud that I’m eating my veggies :)

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Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Serves 4 as an Appetizer or 2 for a Light Meal

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Tomatoes, diced
½ Cup Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, leaves torn
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cheese, basil, garlic, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with your choice of flat bread or toasted baguettes.