Homemade pasta sauce

I like making food for family and friends. It is a type of nurturing. In a time when everyone feels busy and so many of us rely on fast or frozen food, cooking and sharing a meal with another person feels like a gift.

Most of the time the goal is to get a warm meal ready in 30 minutes or less. However, every once in a while I enjoy dedicating time to a meal. I especially like this because my husband and son get excited about the food that I make for them.

Food that takes time and patience has a special significance to me. It feels like a luxury to devote time to meals. So, on occasion, I make special foods. Recently, I took it upon myself to make a tomato-based sauce.

I was lucky enough to obtain a recipe from a friend (Ann S.) whose sauce I long admired. The recipe is simple, elegant and delicious. And it is the sauce that Ann’s Italian family has made forever. If you are ready to get started, here we go…

A good marinara sauce requires few ingredients and a lots of time. Here is the list of ingredients:

2 Cans of tomato puree

2 Cans of warm water

½ yellow onion

Olive Oil

Fresh basil

Fresh garlic

Dried oregano

Dried Italian seasoning

Kosher salt

I put my fresh garlic and yellow onion through my food processor so that I could get small sized pieces. Then, I placed the garlic & onion mixture in a stock pot and sautéed them in olive oil until they were translucent. I poured two cans of tomato puree and two cans of warm water in the stock pot and added the fresh basil. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasonings.

The mixture must cook on medium until it boils. While it is boiling, make certain that you are stirring consistently. Once your sauce has boiled, reduce the heat so that it simmers for two hours. Make certain to stir your sauce every 10-15 minutes. When you are done, your efforts will yield approximately fifteen (15) cups of sauce. Remove the fresh basil from the pot. It is only intended to flavor. Let your sauce cool down properly. Then, I recommend that you freeze some of your sauce for future recipes.

Tomato-based pasta sauce simmering.

Special recommendations

Of course, I do not need to tell you that this sauce can be used anywhere a marinara is needed. However, there are a few things you can do to take recipes to the next level. One thing that my friend does is to drop sausage and peppers into the mix while it is marinating during the two hour simmering process. She removes them from the sauce when it has finished cooking. She then uses them to create incredible sausage sandwiches. I like to use the sauce as a pizza sauce. But, in order to do that I recommend the you finely chop your onions and garlic. This will make a delicious pizza sauce.

What will you add to this recipe?

Creating a great Philly steak sandwich

Cooking good meals for my family is important to me. One of the go to meals that I like to make at home is the Philly steak sandwich.

It is a fairly simple sandwich. Finely chopped beef (Kroger produces an already chopped product that I love), onions, peppers, provolone cheese, and a good hoagie style bread. I like to add some seasoning to my meat. If you have it available, a jalapeño salt is a good seasoning. If not, mix salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and chili pepper flakes to your meat to enhance the flavors.

I like to begin with a hot griddle. I cook the peppers and onions in some olive oil. When they have begun to soften, I add the meat to my hot griddle where it can begin to take on some of the flavoring of the onions and peppers.

When the meat is cooked to my liking, I begin to warm the bread on the same griddle. Then, I add a few slices of provolone on top of the meat. This helps the provolone melt nicely. Finally, I lay the bread open on top of the provolone and use a large spatula in one hand and my hand to turn the sandwich right side up.

Did you try to make my Philly sandwich? How did you change the recipe to make it your own?

The feel of fideo and the comfort of food

Growing up in my household, the foods of my native Mexico were our daily staples. Unfortunately, my mother is not a recipe and measurements type of cook. This means, that when I ask for recipes I do not always get a straight answer. But, nothing gives me greater comfort than the foods of my mother. Comfort foods have a way of making us feel as though the world will be alright. For that reason, I have sought the foods that made me feel good in my youth.

Recently, I have been enjoying fideo with beans quite a bit. For the fideo pasta, I like to use the thinner fideo that La Estrella offers. The ingredients you will need are:

La Estrella Fideo

¼ cup of diced onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 can of tomato sauce (can also use two blended tomatoes)

1 can of chicken broth

1 Knorr Suiza boullion cube

I start by getting olive oil hot on a medium heat before adding the fideo noodles. I cook the noodles (one packet) until they are a light golden color. I add finely chopped onion and garlic cloves to the noodles. Once the onions are cooked, I add 1 can of chicken broth and a can of tomato sauce to the pan. For seasoning, you can try to make your own blend of salt, onion powder, etc. On the other hand, you can use one Knorr bullion cube. This is, for me, what gives it the taste that I remember from youth. I reduce the heat on the pan to low. Then, I make sure that I put a lid on the pan and allow it to simmer nicely.

Fideo simmers in chicken broth and tomato sauce.

I really enjoy adding whole pinto beans to a bowl along with a couple ladle fulls of this pasta. This meal is best used to fulfill my childhood nostalgia.

Sweet peppers in oil

Friends have given me fantastic recipes over the years. One of my all-time favorites comes from my dear friend, Ann. She learned the art of canning from her father, a World War II veteran.

The ingredients are simple: garlic, olive oil, sweet peppers, peppercorns, and salt. You place the peppers, garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a pan. You add enough olive oil to cover the peppers. You simmer the oil for 10-15 minutes. After it cools down, you can place it in a plastic dish with a cover and maintain it in the refrigerator about 30 days.

These delicious peppers are an excellent addition to a charcuterie tray. They are also good with Italian sub sandwiches.

Enjoy!

The Comfort of Home

With the stay at home orders that have been issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been longing for the comfort that my parents provided for me in youth.

One of the ways in which I, and probably many people, transport myself to different times or feelings is through the use of food. The smells emanating from the kitchen and the flavors that hit your taste buds, can act as a time machine to take your mind to memories of safety, security, and love.

This week I did exactly that when I decided to re-create my father’s Mexican shrimp cocktail or cóctel de camarón. And, although it wasn’t an exact match, it was enough to cause those feelings to flood back into my heart and mind.

I was glad to have asked my mom for the recipe; she texted me a list of ingredients. I had a good laugh after I called her to ask for the precise measurements. “No measures, just make it taste good for you.”

When I pressed her a little further about this she gave me the most logical explanation in the world. “Look,” mama said in Spanish, “when papi makes for us he puts four jalapeños in it.” I felt my eyes widen at the thought of that much spice. “But, when you’re home maybe two jalapeños. You see?” And I did.

To that end, I hope you enjoy my papa’s cóctel de camarón recipe. Remember that the most important thing is to make it taste good for you.

Ingredients

1- 1 ½ pounds of shrimp

1 bottle of Clamato

1/2 cup of Ketchup (I maybe added a third as ketchup is not one of my favorite flavors)

Juice squeezed from 2 limes (you can also use lime juice from a bottle but I think fresh ingredients are just better.)

2 jalapeños (remember that you can reduce the spice by removing the seeds)

1/4 onion

2 avocados

1 tomato and

cilantro to your liking.

If it’s not pre-cooked, boil your shrimp. I boiled large shrimp in water and lime (the juice of one lime was used for the shrimp boiling.) Next, drain the water and return the shrimp to the same pot.

Add the Clamato and ketchup to the pot and turn on a low heat.

Now, add your lime, tomato, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Let the flavors meld on a low heat for 5-10 minutes max. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cooked because you pre-cooked the shrimp. But, the cooking process does help the flavors blend together nicely.

When you’re ready to eat, add your avocado; my papa’s recipe calls for the avocado to be included during the cooking/melding process. But since I am the only person in my family that would eat this meal, I chose not to add the avocado so that I could refrigerate a portion of it and eat it at a later time. I reasoned that if the avocado turned brown by the next day, it would reduce my enjoyment of the leftovers.

A few notes about how to eat and enjoy this delicious meal:

Cóctel de camarón can be eaten immediately from the stove or you can choose to put it in the refrigerator for a little while to make it a little colder. I like it colder because I associate this as a summer meal. The leftovers I ate the next day without warming it up. The day I cooked it, I ladled some into a bowl and ate it immediately. I learned that, straight off the stove, the distinct flavor notes are more evident.

I like to chop vegetables into small uniform pieces, as you can see from the accompanying photo. However, your taste buds and chopping skills can dictate how you cut them up.

The cilantro is not a dealbreaker. If you are among the percentage of the population that tastes soap when you eat cilantro, omit it and enjoy the meal without the soapy taste.

I also like to eat saltine crackers with it as that is how I grew up eating this meal. However, the crackers are a filler and do not really add to the experience.

In conclusion, I hope you enjoy this meal and please share any modifications you may have done to it with me by adding a comment to this post. I would love to know how you have made my papa’s recipe your own.

Papa’s cóctel de camarón