Every once in a while, I have a sauce day! Usually this takes place the day of or the day after a big grocery run to the local farm market for fresh veggies. I come home with my treasures and I love to take the time right then and there to chop many of the veggies up to prep for the week's menu. While I'm at it, I make SAUCE.
Here is the pot with the first round of hardy vegetables in it to soften.
Just about anything goes into it and I use it to make spaghetti sauce, chili and lasagna. We eat one meal right away and just about everything else gets frozen for future meals.
I'll try to get a recipe here, but this is the only thing I make that I don't use a recipe for! I follow a recipe religiously, very little variation, once I find something that works. But for sauce, there just aren't any rules! It's different every time and we always love it - it's even better the next day.
This is not such a pretty picture, but you see the browned beef and black beans on top of the vegetables.
Here goes! My apologies for the vagueness of the quantities, that's how this recipe rolls.
Spaghetti sauce for a small army (or to freeze)
a few onions, small dice
a head of garlic, crushed a roughly chopped
about a pound of carrots, peeled and small dice
a couple of parsnips, peeled and small dice
a sweet potato, peeled and small dice
half a bunch of celery, very small dice
one bunch of broccoli, small dice including the stalk
one red, one green, one orange or yellow pepper, small dice
one zucchini, small dice
a few mushrooms, very small dice (to hide them)
whatever else you have in the fridge, freezer, pantry (spinach)
- soften the first few, tougher veggies in a pot with a spot of oil and a little water for a few minutes.
- add all the veggies and stir a bit, I salt and pepper (S&P) here
- in another pot, I have browned 1 pound of ground beef and added 1 19 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed and slightly mashed (I may also add a pkg of firm tofu broken up real small if I have any in the house, it lends itself nicely to sauce taking on all the flavours and adding a high quality protein, calcium and iron and is relatively inexpensive for its nutritional value).
- dump in any italian seasoning mix you like, store-bought or made by your Nanny. Taste. Season.
I had to move into a bigger pot!
Now I add all my tomatoey stuff. Cans of crushed tomotoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste (taste and add a tablespoon of sugar if you need to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.)
Simmer for a couple of hours and serve this as spaghetti sauce. Freeze a meal or two worth for another day.
NEXT STEP, take about 3+ cups of it and set it aside for a lasagna.
TO THE SAUCE remaining in the pot, add some cumin (how much depends on how much sauce is left and how much your family likes cumin), dump in some frozen corn and a can or two of beans, drained and rinsed. Traditionally, you would add red kidney beans but did you know white kidney beans have more iron in them than red? Go ahead, check the side of the can. Huh! Voilà, CHILI! Fridge or freezer for another meal! Serve this with a side of cornbread and a salad or in tortillas.
NOW FOR THE LASAGNA! Have at the ready a 9 x 13 (or whatever size pan you want) lined with tin foil and sprayed with oil. I use ready-to-bake noodles for convenience, read the box that you have and prepare your noodles if you have to.
I make my own ricotta but you can buy some if you like. I add an egg and a squirt of prepared basil to 2 cups ricotta. I also like to add a can or frozen (and thawed) package of spinach to this layer. S&P. Mix it up, set aside.
Grate about 2 cups of cheese, mozza or cheddar or mix them. We're weak in our house and don't go beyond a medium cheddar, but feel free to experiment here to your taste. Set aside.
Assembly, 3/4 c sauce in pan, spread it out thin.
Ricotta layer. 1/2 your grated cheese.
Repeat until sauce is used up, noodles are used up or you run out of room in your pan.
End with grated cheese.
Freeze unbaked (then bake frozen at 375 for at least an hour covered until centre is hot, uncover about 15 minutes to brown cheese) or bake now 375 for 30-45 minutes covered until centre is hot, uncover about 15 minutes to brown cheese. Make up some garlic bread and a salad and holy moly invite some friends over for supper! Tell them to bring the wine or dessert!
Finished lasagna before baking.
This is quite an afternoon of chopping and doing dishes. It cannot be accomplished in my house with my family around so I normally as The Man to take the kids away for a few hours. Frankly, I don't care too much where they go, just go. I do miss them but this gives me more time with them the days I don't have to cook so it's worth it for me. I am nowhere near Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) and don't strive to, but there are some great ideas for freezer meals to explore. (I wanted to put a link here but all I could find quickly were people wanting to sell you OAMC menus and such and I didn't want to push that on you. Geez, I'll get a link here soon for you though, I've seen some great ideas for free.)
Do you have any ideas for me for big batch cooking?