We’ve been quite busy lately. Both with work stuff and the preparation for our upcoming races (5km for Mariam and 21km for Henry). Like for most people, when we are too busy, we tend to get tired faster, irritated more easily, and just over-stressed in general. So, in situations like these, we’ve learned to make a point to STOP and find a relaxing activity right away. We try not to wait until it’s too late (aka, when illness strikes or tempers flare). And truth be told, prevention definitely helps us avoid stress.
We do different things: Going for long walks (as in, 2-3-hour walks), watching funny TV shows, doing road trips, or cooking. This post is about that last point. For us, nothing says STOP and RELAX better than making homemade tomato sauce. And if like us you love pasta, then you’ll want to keep reading this. We’ve got the best recipe for you 😉 .
Making this will help you unwind, plus, you’ll get to have some delicious meal at the end!
We learned this recipe from Mariam’s mom when she visited us from Ethiopia. She hates buying canned or bottled tomato sauces. She finds them to have an artificial ‘factory taste’, expensive, and to be too full of salt, sugar, preservatives and chemicals beyond our pronunciation. And as Mariam’s mom always says, “If you can’t pronounce it, you should probably not eat it”. [Henry: Uh-oh. Does that only hold for chemicals, or for cuisines with names in languages I don’t speak…? 😛 ]
So, we went to our local market and bought a HUGE box of tomatoes.
And the conversation went roughly as follows:
- Mariam “Um… Who is this for?”
- Mother: “Us, why?”
- Marian: “Who is ‘us’? The whole neighborhood?”
- Mother: “No silly! We will cook and store it, so you will have tomatoes sauce all winter”.
- Mariam: “What’s the point of doing that?”
- Mother: “Tomatoes are double the price in winter, Mariam, so are other ingredients you need like rosemary and basil. Plus, it takes the same amount of time and effort to cook 20 tomatoes as 200, so this is better for your time AND money.”
- Mariam: “…Sold!”
So, you like to save time and money all while making something delicious AND unwinding? If the answer is yes, here is what you will need:
- Tomatoes (we highly suggest organic tomatoes);
- Olive or canola oil;
- Chopped onions;
- Fresh basil leaves or fresh rosemary;
- Bell pepper;
- Dried oregano;
- Dried thyme;
- Bay leaves;
- Salt and pepper to taste; and
- A bit of sugar.
Now, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed we didn’t list precise quantities of ingredients. This is on purpose. This cooking activity is supposed to relax you, and not stress you. So don’t worry about quantity too much – you’re making this sauce more by feeling than by anything else. That’s what we do. And the end result always tastes pretty good, regardless of how we vary the spices. So, without further ado, here’s our steps in order:
- Rinse your tomatoes thoroughly (as well as all your other fresh ingredients).
- In a large saucepan, boil water and the tomatoes.
- When the tomatoes start cracking open in the boiling water, remove them from heat.
- Peel tomatoes (don’t burn your fingers!).
- Discard the skin.
- Keen the inner part of the tomatoes.
- Heat a pan with oil in it and fry the onions and the garlic at medium high.
- When they turn light brown, add the tomatoes (squish them once in the pan).
- Increase heat to high and stir for about 15 minutes.
- Add the basil or rosemary.
We suggest basil if you plan to make bolognese type of sauces (image on the left).
We suggest rosemary if you plan to make arrabiata type of sauces, in which case you should add chopped red chilis as well (image on the right).
- Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the bay leaves, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low, close the lid, and cook for 2 hours.
- Final touch: Bell pepper and a hint of sugar.
- Cook for 30 minutes, still at low heat.
Et voila! You can now enjoy the fruit of your labour. What we like about this recipe is that there is lots of waiting time (aka: Time to relax). But at the same time, you can’t leave the house since you have to monitor the sauce. So you are forced to stay put and do very simple tasks like stirring. We legitimately find it therapeutic. Additionally, you get to have enough tomato sauce for 6 months. We use this sauce for lasagna, pizza, spaghetti, and even as the base for side sauces on a rice or quinoa dish. Let’s not forget that it’s delicious and cheap.
We find that the best way to store them is inside Mason jars like these. But you can also put them in ziplocked bags and freeze them (don’t forget to label them). Then, every time you want some pasta sauce or pizza, you take one of these out. Quickly sauté your fresh ingredients (like tuna, mushrooms, ground beef… Whatever you like) and you stir in the already-made-sauce. Delicious dinner staple in 5 minutes!
[Henry: What’s always fascinating about cooking this is just how… meditative it can become. I personally get lost in my own worlds as I’m doing this. And when I’m done, I’ve walked away more at peace, and often times, with more ideas or solutions to problems that were nagging at my consciousness prior to cooking. I can’t guarantee that you’ll have this experience, but honestly, it wouldn’t hurt to try 🙂 .]