Marinara sauce makes it sound really authentic and fierce fancy, but really it’s a basic tomato sauce that can be used as a base for a multitude of meals: Pasta sauce; pizza base sauce; lasagne sauce; mediterranean casserole; chicken and chorizo stew with roast potatoes… have some sauce left over? Chuck in some croutons, make it a soup. Add kidney beans and chilli flakes, turns into chilli… the list is endless. It keeps for about 2-3 days in the fridge, and freezes well.
Most marinara recipes strewn around the internet call for fresh items – fresh oregano, basil, garlic – but it’s extra stress ensuring these items are knocking around your fridge. I’ve thrown out more mushy garlic and soggy herbs than I’d care to recall, so this recipe simply includes whatever veg you have available and the contents of your condiment cupboard.
In this case, we had the below lurking in the vegetable drawer…
Three cherry tomatoes, a bit of pepper, a shallot, a bit of courgette and a handful of sweaty spinach. It doesn’t look like much, but wait ’til you see what it transforms into thanks to the array of items behind the veg.
The base of this (very) basic Italian sauce are as follows:
1) Generous teaspoon of dried oregano (if you have fresh, even better, but don’t stress yerself), or dried mixed herbs, or dried basil, or a bit of all three – whatever you have.
2) Teaspoon of garlic granules (again, if you have fresh, great; finely chop or grate a large clove).
3) Heaped teaspoon of tomato pesto.
4) Dessert spoon of tomato puree.
5) Tin of chopped tomatoes.
1) Dice whatever veg you have…
2) Heat a capful of (preferably) rapeseed oil in a saucepan, and add the shallots.
3) Just as they’re starting to brown, pour in a good dash of warm water; it’ll soften the shallots and help steam the veg once they’re added. Speaking of which.
4) Add all the diced veg and saute for a spell, before adding the pesto, herbs, garlic granules and tomato puree… mix thoroughly.
Isn’t the photography and lighting amazing Anyway, moving on…
5) Add the tin of tomatoes. Simmer gently – do not let it boil as it’ll turn the taste sharp/bitter, hence why there’s about 9 spoons of sugar in shop bought sauces. If you find it has gone a bit tart, add a teaspoon of brown sugar if you have it.
6) Simmer gently for as long as possible. If time’s an issue, 10 mins should do.
7) Grab that hand blender you’ve definitely bought by now (I got this one in Argos for about a tenner).
8) Lop in whatever you can spare and blend. Does your child balk at the sight of beans? Blend some of them in on the sly, great source of iron, fibre and protein.
If your offspring is anything like my 4-year-old, they won’t eat veg any other way. So I always blend a load for her, add it to her pasta with an array of meat (sliced pork chops in this case), use it as a pizza base, etc.
The 1-year-old is still eating veg in its original form (for now), so some are fished out of the pot to go with her pasta and pork. If she flings the veg to the floor, no worries, she’s still getting some from the sauce.
As you can see, both dishes look suitably bland and therefore almost appetising to toddlers.
As for Mammy and Daddy’s dinner; in this instance…
1) The sauce was finally properly seasoned (I like to use the ‘Steak’ mix from Aldi, but your bog standard salt’n pepper will do).
2) Pre-cooked prawns were added to the sauce until heated thoroughly (about 3 mins on a medium heat – again, don’t boil as the prawns will get chewy AF)
3) Top with capers (available in jars in the likes of Tesco, Supervalu etc), strips of Serano ham and feta cheese.
If you’re wondering why the one of the left is much bigger (and when was the last time the hob was cleaned); the other half has decided to run the Dublin City Marathon in October – so lots of carbs and training required.