Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stocking the Freezer

While sipping my coffee this morning after two long days at a swim meet, I started working on the menu for the week. I will be blogging about salads this week as I have a ton of lettuce from my CSA, but I also realize that my freezer supplies are dwindling. One recipe this week will be an easy manicotti recipe that relies on jarred pasta sauce.  I make my own sauce and I am completely out of it, so I need to make a batch.

Stocking the freezer is an important element to healthy, economical cooking. I buy my canned tomatoes at my warehouse club in the large, 102-106 ounce can.  One of these cans of name brand tomatoes costs about the same as 2-3 16-ounce cans of the generic tomatoes in my grocery store and the recipe below uses a whole can, quite a cost savings.  I can make pasta sauce and freeze it for future meals and to prepare the sauce takes about an hour.  As a bonus, I received fresh basil from my CSA this week and I have fresh oregano and thyme in my garden, so I will replace the dried herbs with fresh herbs. Additionally, there are no preservatives in  homemade sauce. I have a can of diced tomatoes, so before I add them, I will quickly pulse them in a food processor before adding them since the recipe calls for crushed tomatoes.

Basic Pasta Sauce

  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 3  cups  chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
  • 6-8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2  teaspoons  salt
  • 2  teaspoons  dried basil (2 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  dried oregano (1 1/2 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1  teaspoon  dried thyme (1 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth(I use homemade, another freezer staple)
  • 1 can (102-106-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven, add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and herbs; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
To store in the freezer: Ladle room-temperature or chilled sauce into plastic containers or zip-top plastic bags. Seal and freeze for up to four months. I freeze my sauce in 3 cup increments which is approximately the same size as a jar of sauce. Freezing in 1 cup increments allows for the most flexibility, but I find that most recipes that use jar sauce call for one jar.

My batch of sauce made 15 cups, so the equivalent of about 5 jars of sauce. Jarred sauce costs about $2 a jar on sale and I made this entire batch for between $3-$4, a savings of more than 50%. Not bad for an hour of work.

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