homemade marinara sauce
This is the 11th day of the South Beach Diet for us and I really like it. The plan has three phases — the first two of which are designed to get you to your “goal” and the third is the maintenance and lifestyle phase. We are trying to purge those extra holiday pounds – and this is a healthy and sensible way to get us back on track to our normal eating habits.
We are also incorporating exercise into our daily routine. Early in the morning works best, so that we aren’t “dreading” a trip to the gym for the rest of the day. I set the alarm for 5 a.m., and we’re at the gym by 5:15-5:20. Well, this morning, I hit a wall — not literally, but it might as well have been for as quickly as my legs slowed and then stopped moving on the elliptical machine. I just didn’t have the stamina to keep going.
It’s the lack of carbohydrates in phase one, I’m sure — but there’s only a few more days left until we can have oatmeal! (I never thought I’d be excited about oatmeal.) I’ll just get through the rest of this week until next Monday when I am allowed to integrate a few servings of carbs.
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying our lean-protein and vegetable-centric diet. I do feel better, lighter, and my jeans are fitting better! Scott is looking great and he wore a pair of slacks this morning that haven’t fit for about two months. Emily was excited to be able to slip on her Abercrombie skinny jeans.
While exercise is important, it’s what you eat that really matters. So, I decided to make a vat of marinara sauce as an accompaniment to turkey meatballs, a no-breading version of chicken parmesan, even my fakeout pasta, with spaghetti squash. Since most store-bought pasta sauce contains added sugars (a big no-no on this plan), this is the best way for me to maintain control. This marinara is just vegetables and herbs and a little spice. To soften the acidity, I did two things — I used really good tomatoes (San Marzano) and I added fennel, which has an anise flavor when eaten raw, but melts into a mildly sweet back note when cooked — kind of like onions. This sauce is the starting point for many healthy meals and it makes enough to can, or freeze — whichever you prefer.
- 3 large carrots peeled and diced
- 4 stalks celery diced
- 1 large onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 bulbs fennel diced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3- 32 oz cans best quality whole tomatoes in puree preferably San Marzano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetables and salt, stir, cover with the lid, reduce heat slightly and let the vegetables cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and they take on a translucent quality, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from heat.
With clean hands, remove tomatoes 1 at a time from the can(s). Carefully (so they don't squirt on you or the kitchen) squeeze them over your pot of vegetables, releasing their seeds and juice and squishing the tomato. Add the remaining tomato puree to the vegetables and stir.
Add bay leaves, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Return the pot to medium high heat, with the cover offset. When the mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat.
Using a food processor or a blender and working in batches, process the sauce until smooth.
It's ready for your favorite recipe, or can be canned or frozen in batches as needed.
Many recipes call for using the back of a spoon to push on whole tomatoes to crush them. I happen to find it easier to use my hands -- and frankly, more fun!