Sunday, August 20, 2017

Moroccan Spiced Hummus





Moroccan Spiced Hummus

Love hummus but never have had the nerve to make it yourself?  Let me tell you that it is neither time consuming, nor difficult!  Hummus is healthy and just about anything can be added to it to tickle your tastes.  I have flat bread rounds in my freezer so I have decided to make hummus with a North African spice blend and I am certainly pleased with it.  I have made hummus prior to this a few times, one with roasted red peppers and garlic, one with tomato, garlic and basil, one with Pakistani spices and now this, with Moroccan spices. Let's get to it, shall we?

Ingredients
2 14.5 ounce cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon Moroccan curry spice
1 rounded tablespoon of garam masala*
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or more)
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano

Add all of the spices into a small skillet over medium heat to toast.  Once aromatic, add the spices to a spice grinder and process. Set aside. 

Rinse the garbanzo beans, or, hominy, in a strainer and set aside.  Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) in your food processor with the garlic and one tablespoon of the garam masala*. Garam masala is a luxurious, aromatic mixture of ground spices and herbs and leaves.  You can find it at many grocery stores nowadays, but I prefer to purchase my spices at a local Middle Eastern grocery store where I know the ingredients, oftentimes in one bag, are authentic.  It includes paprika, coriander seed, cumin, fenugreek leaves and more. 



Now, add half of the garbanzo beans to the food processor and another tablespoon of evoo and a teaspoon of the spice blend. 


Process the first batch of the garbanzo beans until a paste forms on the perimeter of the processor bowl. Add another drizzle of evoo, another layer of the spice blend and process, again, until it is a paste clinging to the perimeter of the processor bowl. Repeat if you have another batch of garbanzo beans to process.  



Use a spatula to remove the hummus and place it into a container for future use or a bowl for serving. 



Add another drizzle of evoo atop the hummus and garnish with one of your favorite herbs. I used sage this time as my oregano has perished in the summer heat on my westward facing patio.  Sad me. I also added a gentle pinch of finishing salt. 

I will be serving this tomorrow with flat bread wedges oven baked drizzled with evoo, rosemary and grated garlic.  Stay tuned for the updated blog post!  I am posting this now by request!  


Please remember to check back tomorrow night about 8pm Pacific Time to see the updated post with the baked flat bread!  Thank You!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Italian Mac n Cheese in Personal Ramekins





Mini Farfalle Italian Mac n Cheese in Personal Ramekins

While that is a complicated, really big title, this dish is anything but complicated.  However, it has big flavor that will satisfy any palette. I grew up eating Mac and Cheese.  My mother used to make it once a week.  It was a buck-stretching staple during tough times, and, it was fairly easy for my mom to make after her own long day of work. While my mom seldom strayed from her own recipe for mac n cheese, except for adding deep sweet purple beets to the top of it, now and then to add a veg, which I disliked, I have strayed far from it and have added myriad ingredients to my different mac dishes. Search my recipes and you will find that I have written two or three, maybe more, mac n cheese recipes. Whether it was my mom's mac n cheese or my own, my favorite part remains the crispy cheesy top with cheese bubbling all around it as it fragrantly comes out of the oven. 

I have made Mac n Cheese with hot dogs, roasted green chiles, sweet roasted red peppers, chicken, Spanish chorizo and more.  This recipe, however, is by far my favorite.  For this recipe, I have toned down the ingredients list but kept delightful flavors. I decided on an Italian theme, and decided that less is more.  That theory proved correct!

Let's get to it, shall we?

Ingredients:
1 pound mini farfalle ('bow tie") pasta
1.5 cups buttermilk 
3-4 tablespoons flour
1/2 stick of butter
3 + 3 separated tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound mild Italian ground sausage
4 sprigs fresh thyme 
2 sprigs fresh oregano 
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic + 1 grated or finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 palm of salt for the pasta  water
1.5 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
non-stick spray



You can purchase the cheeses already grated at most grocers and you can do without the fresh herbs, but you know me, I love to use fresh herbs whenever possible. Many grocery stores also now sell onions and garlic, among other veg, finely chopped already, if you do not have time nor the inclination to chop and grate them yourself. Excellent for those with time constraints, folks on-the-go and convenience, overall!

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.

Add at least four quarts of water to a large pot over high heat to bring to a roiling boil. 

Now, in a large skillet, add three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) over medium-high heat and crumble and brown the sausage.  Add the onion and garlic, reserving the fourth clove, to the skillet. Add the fresh herbs and all but a teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning. Once done, set aside off the heat. 



By now, the pot of water should be at that roiling boil.  Add about half a palm full of sea salt to the water and stir. Add the pound of mini farfalle, also known as "bow tie" pasta to the pot and stir to prevent sticking. 



Mini bow tie pasta takes 8 minutes to cook until soft. Reserve half a coffee mug of the pasta water and strain the pasta in a colander. 

Place the pot over medium heat and add the other three tablespoons of evoo and the half stick of butter. Add the teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning and garlic to the butter and evoo.  Whisk.  Once the butter begins to foam, add the flour and whisk vigorously to prevent flour clumps. 

Next, add the buttermilk and whisk.  Once incorporated, it will very soon start to boil around the perimeter of the pot. Add the sausage and incorporate well.  Add the mozzarella and, set the whisk aside and use a large wooden spoon to fold in the cheese.  "Folding" means to turn over the mixture rather than stir.  Next, add the Fontina cheese.  Fontina is a soft cheese, perfect for melting. Fold the Fontina in with the mozzarella.  By now the mixture will really begin to thicken.  You may get an arm work-out!  If you need, add a little more milk, a splash at a time, to help loosen it up, and I do mean a splash!  


Watch me whisk......Watch me nae nae!

Now add the Asiago cheese and fold.  At this point, add a good splash of the reserved pasta water. This will slightly loosen the heavy mixture, and slightly is the goal.  It should be thick. 

Finally, add the pasta and the remaining pasta water from the mug and fold in the pasta thoroughly. 

Now, spray four -  six personal ramekins with olive oil non-stick spray.  Add a little water to a roasting pan so that it just covers the surface area of the pan. Add a heaping spoon full of the mac and cheese to a ramekin and top with a little grated parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little evoo. Repeat until all of the ramekins are filled. Stagger them in the roasting pan and place the pan into the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  The water adds a bit more moisture and protects the ramekins from cracking. 







And when time's up, the top of the mac and cheese will be golden brown and crispy and amazingly flavorful.  It is truly amazing.  The flavors of Italia will waft through the kitchen and home when you open the oven and carefully remove the pan. And be careful! Remember, there is hot water in it!!!

Let the ramekins rest about eight minutes out of the roasting pan.  Top with fresh chiffonade basil and enjoy!  




The Mini Farfalle is PERFECT for this dish!!!

When I decided on this dish, I could not help but think about my dear friend, Morgan, who LOVES Mac n Cheese, and for some reason, I have never made it for him.  So Morgan, this one is for you!



As always, THANK YOU, friends, for your viewership and readership, your time and consideration.  I am grateful for all of you!

Now, I hope you are suffering about wanting to get to the pantry or store to make this dish!  Go!  Go cook for someone you love!!!!  

~Martin
In-House Cook








Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pesto Farfalle Pasta with Marinated Skirt Steak and Tomatoes




Pesto Pasta with Marinated Skirt Steak and Tomatoes

I have been planning and preparing dishes that are simple to prep, expeditious, healthy and above all, flavorful. Despite one's dietary restrictions, there are myriad spices and sauces to use to induce flavors and tenderize meats without degrading one's restrictions. With this healthy eating thought process in mind, and with the support of my dear friends, Lee and Selena, I have created this dish that can serve four - to - six easily, four big appetites or six average average appetites. 

This dish is simply bowtie (farfalle) pasta tossed with butter, extra virgin olive oil, fresh halved baby tomato medley, grated parmesan cheese and pesto.  The skirt steak is marinated for an hour and then seared until a crust forms on either side. The prep is minimal and the actual cooking is easy and slightly staggered so you have time to attend to other things in the duration of the cooking. 

Let's get to it, shall we?  

Ingredients for the Skirt Steak 
1 16 - 20 ounce skirt steak
1/2 teaspoons of each salt and pepper + half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, separated
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
4 tablespoons Mirin
2 tablespoons Ponzu
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + three tablespoons, separate
2 tablespoons minced garlic

If you can, allow the steak to marinade for an hour, turning the steak after thirty minutes.  If you can marinade it longer, say two or three hours, that would be even better, but, an hour produces amazing flavor and tenderness of the steak. 



Simply add the three tablespoons of evoo to a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil ripples, add the steak and sear six or seven minutes per side. Steaks thicker (on the thick side) than 1.5-inches, sear eight or nine minutes per side.  Remove from the steak from the skillet to a plate or cutting board and allow it to rest.  



Meanwhile, on a burner over high heat, add four quarts of water to a large pot and bring to a roiling boil.  Liberally salt the water and stir.  Add one box or pound of farfalle, or, "bowtie" pasta to the water and stir to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.  

Here are the other three ingredients I used for my pasta:  
1 jar pesto   (I did not have time nor resources to make my own, sadly)
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 pint of halved baby tomato medley
2 tabs of butter
2 tablepsoons extra virgin olive oil



Boil the pasta about ten minutes, maybe twelve, until the pasta is done.  I would normally say until al dente, just before done, but, having made this pasta this way before, it is best to boil it until it is thoroughly done and soft.  The pesto flavors and tomato flavors are absorbed more effectively when it is done. Strain the pasta and, while the pasta is draining, add the butter and evoo to the pot with the heat turned off.  Add half of the pesto and the tomatoes and stir.  Add the pasta to the pot and the rest of the pesto and the half of the parmesan cheese and toss to combine.  

Working it like a Boss! Haha!!!😎

Let the pasta rest a few minutes to allow the flavors to marry while you slice the steak. I put the steak on a grooved board to catch any escaping juices. After slicing the steak, add the other half of the parmesan to the pasta, stir again, and plate the pasta on a serving platter for family style, if you wish, and arrange the steaks atop the pasta, sprinkle with six chiffonade fresh basil leaves (ribbons) and serve.  



Your family, loved ones and guests will be thrilled and will enjoy the savory flavors and not worry about their wastelines. While I used a whole wheat pasta, you can reduce the calories and carbs even more so by using rice flour pasta.  

A little closer view. 
Morgan will love this, too!

******  

I want to throw in another shout out to my bestie, Sonja, who brought me lunch a good week ago, turkey and cheese wraps with cherry tomatoes.  She created yet another healthy and deeeeelicious wrap, similarly, with basil.  Just wanted to share this with you.  These are so perfect for someone who is on the go, busy life, little time to make lunches.  Thank You, Sonja!!!

Sliced turkey, mozzarella, a little dijon mustard, basil leaves on a whole wheat tortilla. Deliciousness!

Maniacal looking me with Sonja, left, and another awesome bffff, Brittany, right. 

As always, my awesome readers and viewers, Thank You for your time, consideration and support.  You all amaze me and I cannot be more grateful for YOU!!!!

~Martin
In-House Cook






  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fresh Rosemary and Garlic Chicken and Fresh Herb Quinoa




Rosemary and Garlic Chicken with Fresh Herb Quinoa

I have enjoyed this week's simple but flavorful meals. I will share two of them with you here, one of which I did not make, myself.  My wondrously techy bfff, Sonja, made a fantastic luncheon for us yesterday! I created this simple dish a few days ago that gave me two more nights of a delightful, healthy dinner. There is certainly no remorse devouring this dish, nor serving it to family and friends. Flavorful, healthy, easy peasy, this meal is one for your recipe file!  

Fresh rosemary, fresh garlic oven roasted boneless, skinless juicy chicken thighs and reduced sodium chicken stock which steeped fresh rosemary and fresh garlic quinoa.  The theme is pretty clear, right?

Let's get to it shall we? That way you can get to your own healthy meal!

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees. 

Ingredients
6 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated, separated
3 rounded tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, separated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme, for flavorful garnish
parmesan, if desired
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
non-stick spray (canola or olive oil) 

In a roasting pan lined with foil, better with a rack inside for more even heating, spray with non-stick spray. 



In a large bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar, the separated rosemary and garlic and whisk together. Add salt and pepper to both sides of the chicken thighs. Add the thighs to the marinate and toss the thighs well with the marinate.  Allow them to marinate as long as you can, but if only a few minutes is all that is possible, then that is fine!  I marinated the thighs only about twenty minutes, and they turned out amazingly flavorful!

Chicken thighs marinating in a bowl. 


Lay out the chicken thighs in the roasting pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Add the pan to the oven and set the timer for 15-minutes. After fifteen minutes is up, reset the timer for 20 minutes and set up a small saucepan on the stove top over medium-high heat. 

Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the sauce pan, add a package of quinoa (about 5 ounces for four servings) and stir, allowing the quinoa to toast for about two minutes.  Add the fresh rosemary and garlic and stir for another two minutes.  Add a tiny pinch of salt and black pepper (less than 1/4 of a teaspoon each) and stir for another minute.  Now add the 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock or broth (listen to the sizzle!) and bring it to a boil, stirring.  



Bring the quinoa liquid to a boil, stirring so the seeds will not stick to the bottom of the saucepan, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and cover, and allow it to steam.  Afterward, use a fork to fluff up the quinoa.  It has a couscous-like consistency, so if you have never made quinoa before, it is as simple as preparing couscous or rice. 

By now, the chicken timer should be going off, too. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, remove the thighs to a plate and allow them to rest a few minutes. On a side note, you Could use boneless/skinless chicken breasts, too.  Chicken thighs are my preference because they retain their moisture better than chicken breasts do. But it is completely your choice, whatever you like best!

To plate, use your imagination.  I place quinoa in a bowl and turned it upside down to form a base for my chicken thighs.  I added a small salad of halved baby tomato medley, the thighs on and around the quinoa base, drizzled the plate with aged reduced balsamic vinegar and added grated parmesan to the plate for the fun of it.  I could have added it to the quinoa, but parmesan is pretty salty, and I wanted to limit the sodium content of this dish.  


I simply garnished with fresh thyme and sprinkled fresh thyme leaves around the plate. 


Final View.  

As always, I want to the Thank You, my gentle viewers and readers, for your time and consideration!  I so appreciate your visit to my humble blog site. But guess what????  I am NOT DONE!

My dear technology goddess guru bestie, Sonja, came to visit my classroom yesterday to help me add  links to my existing classroom tech, and she brought us a homemade, very healthy, balanced lunch!  She added a sliced wedge of cheese (she said next time she will add two, rather than one, a couple of delicious layers of sliced turkey to wheat tortillas and made healthy, delectable wraps.  I added halved cherry tomatoes to mine, which she'd also supplied.  She also brought us both a banana and a small bag of jerky.  So incredibly satisfying this lunch was!  




  


My techy bestie, Sonja, and I.  

NOW, Friends, go cook something healthy for someone you love!  Their hearts will thank you for it!  

~Martin
In-House Cook




Saturday, July 22, 2017




Pita with Peanut Butter and Fresh Fruit 

It is incredibly nice when friends provide me with suggestions for dishes, for fun and for life. I have, admittedly, been wishy-washy about my health, until the last few months. For years, I put off my own health in the service of others.  But I have learned the hard way, I cannot care for my students or my mom as I do, without first being in good health, myself.  I changed my insurance company and I love that and my doctors and they take exceptionally great care of me.  But one of the things I need to change, for myself, is my own diet.  

Now, I am often asked:  "Do you eat like that Every day?"  Meaning, do I eat delectable, rich, indulgent, decadent foods every day?  OH heck no!  You have often heard me say "Everything in Moderation".  I struggle to follow that advice, sometimes, however. But I do not eat like my blog posts every day.  There is only me at home, so when I post food, 8 - 10 times, I am cooking for someone else and at their place (ergo the name, In-House Cook). This summer I have made friends with some amazing Twitter folk and we have, admittedly, been both good and bad influences on one another.  It is incredibly fun to chat with my friend, Lee Henry Styles, about food and moderation.  He has asked me the same questions I mentioned above and in my previous blog post.  The fact is, I do not eat terribly decadently but not terribly poorly, either.  Lee brought up the point, "But how do we (my readers) know that when I only post the usual decadent meals?" 

Talk about a "Boom!" Mic Drop Moment!!!

Both Lee and another one of our friends have prompted me to take things lighter, not only for myself but for you, my gentle readers.  So the next several blog posts will be about lighter fare, BLDs, Breakfasts, Lunches and Dinners that I normally eat when I am working.  I already post dishes that I call "Pantry Meals" which I make with bare bones pantry items at the end of the month (paid once a month). 

To start my quest to show you how I normally eat, I have decided to start a daily food diary. When working, to be honest, I often eat the school lunch, but when at home, I want to eat well, with flavor and decadence, but without decadent calories and without ingredients leading to my health's degradation. My mom will be happy to read the following blog posts over the next couple of weeks because she always asks me about what I eat. 

If I am not eating with my youngest son, this dish is very normal for me.  I love fresh fruit, particularly berries.  My friends and family know that I love berry pies best.  I am not into the puddings and cream pies.  Something not many people know about me, I am a toast-a-holic.  I love toast and English muffins. Sourdough, French, Hawaiian sweet bread, Italian...I love toast. Hello....my name is Martin, and I am a toast-a-holic.  Now, I do not eat toast all day long, 24/7/365, but I do love it. Tortillas fall under this catergory, as well, particularly organic wheat tortillas. 

Today, I used a Pocketless Pita, also known as Flat Bread, and I spread a thin layer peanut butter over it, arranged strawberries and blueberries over it, and sprinkled Saigon cinnamon over it.  I have frozen berries in my freezer at all times, as I love to eat berries for dessert.  That does not mean it is always so healthy.  I love to soak berries in frozen, slushy Prosecco and eat it with a spoon.  No, I do not have that to show you today. 



But, to wrap up this first "Here's to Our Health" blog post, here is my Pita with Peanut Butter and Fresh Fruit lunch.  Half for lunch, half for dessert or breakfast. 

Enjoy the photo essay, my dear gentle readers, and as always, Thank You for your time and consideration!  



Now, go cook something healthy for someone you love!  

~Martin
In-House Cook





Burger Night! Cheddar Burger with Ponzu Seared Pork Belly with Mayo Garlic Ponzu Aioli!!!




Burger Night!

Cheddar Burger with Ponzu Seared Pork Belly and Mayo Garlic Ponzu Aioli

We all have our favorite burger, whether it is a fast food burger or one we make at home, or one we can order at a restaurant.  The fact is, however, I am never contented with a burger unless I make my own at home. While I have made dozens of different versions of burgers, I fully enjoy playing around with ingredients, spices, buns, greens vs. no greens and toppers, such as cheese discs, bacon, salamis, pork belly, eggs, chiles and many other items.  I have used them all.  Last night, I made one of my most favorite burgers, one that was simple and easy and delicious, and best of all, there is no slicing, dicing or chopping. This is one is fast and furious and delish!

My favorite burger blend is 93%+ lean ground sirloin and 85% lean ground chuck.  The ground chuck provides moisture the lean sirloin does not offer. I made a spice blend specific to this Asian Inspired burger.  I use one pound of each. You could, of course, use whatever meat combinations you prefer, and of course, you are not limited to beef. 

Let's get to the burger ingredients!  The spice blend is found throughout the meat and most of the wet ingredients are found in the burger meat, as well.  

This weeknight or fast weekend recipe does not call for any slicing, dicing nor chopping, as I mentioned above. It is perfect for unexpected guests or one of those nights where you just do not feel like greatly involved cooking. 

Ingredients List: 
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1 pound fairly lean ground chuck
1 small block pork belly (salt pork), sliced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground or fresh (diced) ginger
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic + 1 teaspoon, aside
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Ponzu + 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 package Brioche buns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add all of the ingredients - except one teaspoon granulated garlic - to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your best kitchen tools:  Your Clean Hands. Form the number of patties you wish to make, make a depression in the center of each on on side.  This enables to burgers to reshape while frying or grilling to an appropriate shape; otherwise, they puff up in the center too much and do not finish cooking in the center properly. 

In a large skillet, add three tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the pork belly slices.  They should put out a good sizzle.  After three or four minutes, turn the pork belly slices.  Add two tablespoons of Ponzu and allow a dark caramelization to form, which will only take a couple of minutes.  Turn one more time to allow the same on the other side.  Remove the pork belly slices and set aside.  


I'd added a little of  the remaining spices to the pork belly.  

Ponzu caramelization on the pork belly slices. 

Next, fry up the burger patties over medium-high heat, about 6 minutes per side. Meanwhile, heat up the broiler, add a little olive oil spray to the buns, sprinkle with some granulated garlic and broil until golden brown, about four minutes. 

Now, if you wish to make my garlic ponzu may aioli, this is simple, simple, simple.  Two or three rounded tablespoons of mayo, a tablespoon of ponzu and half a teaspoon of either fresh minced or granulated garlic. Whisk and chill, so it will thicken.  

I added slices of sharp cheddar cheese to my burgers, but you should use whatever your favorite cheese is. You have known me to use Oaxaca, mozzarella, pepper jack, smoked white cheddar, fontina and provolone.  I am not real partial to Swiss cheese on burgers.  I do not know why.  Sorry, folks. I like it on sandwiches, for sure, but not burgers. 

Now, simply put your burger together the way you would love it.  Food is love, so I mean love it.  I slathered some of the aioli on both buns, placed the burger on the bottom bun, the cheese was already melted over it, I placed three pieces of pork belly slices atop the burger and finally, the top bun. Place greens wherever you love it to be and enjoy!!!!



Ready to Eat! I did not serve it with a side as it was just for me, but I'd serve it with oven roasted fries, onion strings, or oven roasted potatoes.  

As always, my gentle viewers and readers, Thank You so much for you time and consideration!

Now, go cook something - like a simple yet flavorful cheesy burger with pork belly - for someone you love!

~Martin
In-House Cook








  



Friday, July 21, 2017

30, 60 or 90-Minute Pasta Sauce





30, 60 or 90 Minute Pasta Sauce

My mom always had tomato sauce, tomato paste and a packet of spaghetti mix to make pasta sauce as I grew up.  You may recall, in my earliest blog posts, that I had stated that my mom was not the biggest fan of Italian food.  She still isn't, but it did not stop her from making "spaghetti" sauce and her own marinara for "little pizzas".  Remember one of my early blog posts was my recreation of my mom's "Little Pizzas", sliced pepperoni and salami over mozzarella cheese and my mom's marinara on oven toasted English muffins. Despite the simplicity of how my mom made the sauce, those two dishes were among my favorite meals my mom had ever made. Also, as you know, I have made a bazillion pasta sauces and have used just a many different kinds of pasta.  This post, however, I want to share with you how to make a delicious pasta sauce within thirty minutes, but, if you want to simmer it low and slow for a much more sophisticated marriage of flavors, you can simmer for sixty to ninety minutes or longer, to suit your own palette, using both dried and/or fresh ingredients. This sauce is versatile for whatever pasta or marinara uses you may have for it. Let's get to it!

A Study of Spices and Herbs
I am often asked, "Why shouldn't I just buy a bottle of pasta sauce?"  True!  Why not?  I am not a nay-sayer about jarred sauces, but, if you have diabetic or cardiac dietary restrictions, just read the labels. Most jarred pasta sauces are high in sugar and sodium, both.  If you make your own sauce at home, you control not only the quality of the ingredients but what ingredients you use. 🌿🌿🌿

The same applies with purchasing packets of seasonings.  My mom almost always used seasoning packets for tacos and spaghetti. They taste great! No problem with that!  Problem is, however, there is almost always more sodium than I or my family needs in each packet.  Why not use it for emergencies, or extra last-minute guests? Why not use a bottled pasta sauce for those situations?  Or, consider this....double or triple the sauce, divide it, and freeze the extra sauce!



🎀 Drop. Boom!


I love to cook with fresh herbs but I often use dried herbs, as well.  The two offer different layers of flavor.  Fresh herbs season quickly but not intensely. Dried herbs contain condensed, intensified flavors as they naturally dry and heat up.  I often combine them when making particular sauces or braising liquids. Layering each flavor of your dish is extremely important.  


Here are my dry go-to spices and dry herbs for pasta sauces:

Salt
Pepper
garlic powder or granulated garlic
onion powder or granulated onion
paprika
oregano
cumin
thyme
Italian parsley
Italian seasoning mix  (dried herbs)*
Crushed red pepper flakes**





I use crushed red pepper flakes when I want to make a spicy arrabbiata sauce***. I also add Fresno chile, julienne sliced or discs.  

Dried Italian seasoning, added to other dried spices, kicks up the aroma and flavors you are looking for in a pasta sauce. We'll talk more about this a little further on in this article. 

Fresh Aromatics and Herbs:  

1 large red or yellow onion, chopped
2 - 3 shallots, finely chopped if you prefer less onion aroma and taste
2 large or three medium garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
6 - 10 fresh basil leaves rolled, chiffonade or finely chopped (chiffonade: ribbon cut, good for sauce flavorings and garnish)
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves peeled off backwards
3 - 4 fresh oregano sprigs,  leaves pulled or plucked from the woody stems

Now, on to the actual sauce.......


Canned tomatoes
I use Cento products as much as possible.  Cento is not a sponsor of my humble blog, I just Love their products, is all.  I use a 28-ounce can of crushed or pureed tomatoes and a smaller can of fire roasted or Italian style diced tomatoes, 14.5 or 16-ounce cans (when I can find the 16-ounce cans).  

I also use 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or a third of a cup of red wine, such as a cabernet.  I sometimes use both and have a little left over for me! 🍷  Cheers!

I made a double batch of my simple but flavorful pasta sauce.  The prep time takes the longest, actually, because I intentionally use fresh ingredients as much as possible.  

Chop the onion, grate or finely chop the garlic, prep the fresh herbs. Now for a time-saving spices and dried herbs tip:  create your own Italian Pasta Spice Blend.  Place all of the dry herbs and spices in a spice grinder.  

1 teaspoon salt and pepper
2 tablespoons paprika (rounded tablespoons)
1 rounded teaspoon of thyme, parsley, oregano and a quarter teaspoon cumin seed
1 rounded teaspoon basil

You can double or triple these amounts for future sauces or if you plan to make double or triple the amount of sauce now.  If you have leftover spice blend, place it in a mason jar, lid tight, in a dark cupboard for up to three months. I do that, and the same with my Mexican Spice Blend. 


Next, bring four quarts of water to a roiling boil. Generously season the water with sea salt, as, you know this, it is the only chance you get to season the pasta.  In addition, add three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large pot or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, depending on how much sauce you intend to make.

Note:  Add and caramelize whatever protein you want to use prior to sauteing the onion and garlic.

You can certainly make the sauce without meat and add it when you desire to in the future!

When the oil begins to ripple, add the onion, a little salt and saute for about three or four minutes, until the onions begin to soften and discolor. Add the garlic and stir that in well.  When the onion and garlic are very aromatic and are beginning to caramelize, add the red wine vinegar splash and, using a wooden spoon, scrape the burnt bits from the bottom of the pot.  If you browned up a protein, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot or skillet. The red wine vinegar or wine works to loosen up burnt bits, making it easier to scrape up those burnt bits which are full of flavor! 

Once the onions begins to soften and appear translucent, add the 28-ounce can of tomato puree and the can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, or, all four cans if you are doubling the recipe!  Bring the mixture to a boil, and as it comes to a boil, add another tablespoon of your spices and herbs, dried or fresh, and incorporate well. 


I added fresh herbs at the start along with a rounded tablespoon of my spice blend.  

The rest depends on your plan.  You can simmer the sauce for fifteen minutes and serve your pasta or you can simmer it for thirty, sixty or ninety minutes, or more, if you wish!  Fifteen minutes before serving, add a good sprinkle of the dried herbs mix, stir well, and serve a few minutes afterward.  

Toss with pasta with the sauce, however long you simmer it, and grate a good amount of parmigiano-reggiano over it, garnish with fresh basil or Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley and serve!


One more view!!!





Thank You for your time and consideration - and patience - with this rather long post.  I seem to have made it far more complicated than it really is.  The big idea, double the sauce ingredients and freeze it for a later meal or two!

Once your recover from this long post, go cook something for someone you love! 😍

~Martin
In-House Cook