Going off of the theme of saving time (see my last post on grocery shopping/meal planning) and yes, unpacking just a few more moving boxes, I was thinking of what would be a simple dish to prepare, is relatively inexpensive, something the kids will eat (this is key) and is freezable: I came up with tomato-basil sauce.
Now, I am half sicilian and I definatley don’t want to get any “nasty-grams” from full Italians on this one, but I am going to call my sauce tomato-basil because of the addition of fresh basil leaves. Typically, if I make it’s close relative “marinara sauce,” I leave out the fresh basil and just focus on the tomatoes, garlic, parsley and salt/pepper. I also add in a battuto, which is Italian meaning “to beat,” however, for sauce purposes it translates into mincing the ingredients. The battuto for my marinara is minced celery, carrot and onion.
Tonight I also threw together parmesan cheese toasts. These are perfect for using up left-over French bread from a day or two ago. Just heat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice French bread 1-inch thick. Slather softened unsalted butter onto each slice. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese. Toast on baking sheet in oven until edges of bread are light, golden brown. You could choose to make these into garlic-cheese toasts with a sprinkle of garlic powder from your spice cabinet.
Recipe for Tomato-Basil Sauce follows below the photos.
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar (you can certainly leave this out)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Heat a olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. When oil is ready add onions and stir until they are soft (about 3-4 minutes). Add garlic and stir constantly until soft (about 1-2 minutes), being careful not to burn or it will become bitter. Add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper and sugar (if using) and stir. Lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in chopped basil and parsley. Taste sauce again. Adjust seasonings if needed.
Yield: 3 cups
Note: Most personal chefs are experts at freezing the items they prepare for their clients. Sauces, especially those that are tomato-based are easy to freeze at home. Simply cool the sauce using an ice-water bath (stirring constantly will help to speed the process) . Transfer the sauce into freezer safe containers and label with the contents and date. I generally recommend using a frozen sauce within three months of preparation. You can divide this sauce into 3 containers with 1 cup each. To defrost, place container into refrigerator and defrost overnight.
Time-Saving Note: Tomato-Basil Sauce is terrific over pasta of course, but you can use it to top chicken breasts, mix in sauteed vegetables for a variation, or add some of the sauce into broth to flavor soups.