The fall semester has started. So far I haven’t felt too overwhelmed, but that might be because one of my classes doesn’t actually begin until this Monday. Before I know it, there will be days of alternating between staring at scholarly articles and staring at SPSS datasets, nights of alternating between trying to write a paper and crying because it’s too hard to write a paper, and weeks that are so filled with classes and meetings that I’m not quite sure when there will be time for reading articles, writing papers, and running endless statistical analyses. I can’t wait.*
But I know once this happens, there are going to be more times that I really don’t want to cook dinner. Or, even if I want to cook, I just don’t have the time or energy. I’m going to want to eat bowls of cereal. Or convince Nick that we should go out midweek and blow the entire month’s dining-out budget on one meal. So I’m being proactive. After about an hour of chopping and sauteing vegetables, and another hour of simmering the sauteed veggies with five giant cans of crushed tomatoes, I now have a freezer stocked with several months’ worth of marinara sauce. And yes, it does take me over 30 minutes to chop veggies… I’m really, really slow at cutting up food, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the cooking process.
I’m a little embarrassed by the fact that my marinara sauce recipe comes from a Giada De Laurentiis cookbook. The fact that her books tend to have more pictures of her super-white teeth (and cleavage) than of the food costs her a little credibility, but I’ve pretty much loved every recipe I’ve tried from Everyday Italian.
I never liked marinara sauce when I was younger- it was always too heavy or tomato-pasty or bland. But this sauce is bright and fresh. Equally delicious left as is, or doctored up with some extras. The marinara sauce gets used for all sorts of variations on red sauce and pasta: I’ll add some green veggies, olives, or a can of oil-packed tuna. Or I use Giada’s recipe for vodka sauce. (I usually add in some broccoli so that I can rationalize the heavy cream.)
As Giada suggests, I double the recipe and freeze it (although I use reusable containers rather than freezer bags as she recommends).
Marinara Sauce (doubled from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis)
Makes about 16 cups
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 small onions, finely chopped (I used three, because by that point my eyes were done with chopping onions)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 (32-ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes (I can never find 32-oz cans, only 28-oz. So it’s basically four and a half 28-oz cans….)
4 dried bay leaves
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent (about 10 minutes). Stir in celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes (when you double the recipe, this seems to take more like 15 minutes).
Stir in crushed tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for about an hour, until the sauce thickens. Discard bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.
Can be refrigerated (covered) for a day, or frozen for three months.
*I’m only being half-sarcastic. Part of me obviously loves this stuff. I mean, I did choose to do this.
**Breakdown of the photos in Everyday Italian:
- Photos of Giada with or without food (not including pictures featuring only her hands): 50
- Photos of ingredients or cooking equipment: 36
- Photos of actual recipes: 30
(Yes, I did go through and count them… what do you expect? I’m a researcher. At least I didn’t run a t-test or ANOVA… yet….)