Sunday, September 4, 2011

slow-cooked marinara sauce with a chicken option

For years one of my favorite pastimes was simmering a large pot of marinara sauce, sometimes two, on the stove. I'd end up with jar upon jar of rich, thick sauce for the freezer. Though in recent years, I've cut way back on my use of tomatoes, there's something comforting about the slow simmer of that sauce. The house just smells wonderful all day, which, of course, is one of my favorite things about slow-cooking and braising.

Though I used large, heavy pots for the fun of it, a crock pot works beautifully, too. The crock pot also has the advantage of needing much less attention during the long cooking process. This sauce goes together so quickly that you could even start it before work and come home wondering if you're in an Italian restaurant.

2  large yellow or white onions, sliced or chopped
5  cloves garlic, chopped
1 or 2 carrots, finely diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (canned will work here in a pinch)
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend*, preferably one with red pepper flakes
2  15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
2  28 ounce cans tomato sauce**
sea salt and pepper
  • Brown onions and carrots in oil in a large saute pan.
  • Stir in mushrooms and brown slightly.
  • Add garlic and cook another minute or so.
  • Pour onion mix into crock pot and add seasonings, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. 
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper to start.
  • Cook on low for at least 8 hours. The long, slow cooking is what creates a rich sauce.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
*a combination of dried or fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and parsley with a pinch of red pepper flakes can be used if you prefer.
**whole tomatoes may be substituted for tomato sauce, resulting in a lighter, though still tasty, sauce.

This sauce can be used as is over spaghetti squash or pasta, or it can be the basis of any number of dishes.

For a quick and easy chicken dish, one of my all-time favorites, add chicken pieces of your choice (I like thighs for this) to the uncooked sauce before beginning the 8 hour cook time. The chicken cooks with the sauce and comes out tender and moist, as it adds more depth to the sauce.

Freeze leftovers for quick dinners on weekdays.

1 comment:

  1. If you opt for cooking this on the stove top instead of crock potting it, a little extra liquid may be necessary since it simmers so long. Water, dry red wine, vegetable or chicken broth all work well. For this amount of sauce, about 1 cup should be plenty. Since the moisture content in the other ingredients can vary so much, use your best judgment.


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