Simplest San Marzano Sauce

I was fortunate to pick up about 8 pounds of San Marzano tomatoes this week. They’ve been absolutely perfect in everything I’ve added them to this week, but let’s be honest, 8 pounds is A LOT of tomatoes. So I decided today to make some fresh sauce with them. I panicked about the prospect of peeling all these little guys, but after a whole lot of Googling, I decided to give it a try without the hassle of peeling.

8 cups roughly chopped San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
Lots of fresh basil
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Sea Salt

After roughly chopping the tomatoes (this was a family affair – I felt I was running the kitchen in The Bear), add the water and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & water, the salt and red pepper flakes to your taste and a healthy amount of fresh basil wrapped in cheesecloth. Get the basil all snuggled into the tomatoes. Heat to boiling, then simmer until most of the water has been absorbed (I let it go for probably 90 minutes). Remove the bundle of basil.

If you like your sauce on the chunkier side, that’s it! We wanted it a little smoother, so I hit it with an immersion blender (I still kept a good bit of the chunkiness). Add some chopped fresh basil at the end.

I can’t wait to serve it up on Monday (and plan on freezing the rest)! I’ve only used about half of the tomatoes, so if you have a favorite way to use them, please share!

What’s Cooking This Week

About the only thing I’m good at growing in our garden is herbs. Many of the plants came from a wine and herb event at one of our favorite Finger Lakes wine trails and they’ve just taken off from there. I’ve added a few along the way, but the majority are our original plantings! So this time of year, I love making a simple tomato sauce with fresh oregano to carry us through the week.

The sauce starts by sautéing a medium chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic till softened. Add about 1/4 cup of dry red wine, a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, a 14 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of sugar, salt and pepper to taste and ton of freshly picked and chopped oregano. Let it simmer for an hour or so just to get all the flavors blended together.

In the winter, I add freshly made meatballs when the sauce is simmering. But in the summer, I add some hot Italian sausage that I cooked on the grill.

Hard as I try, I can’t scale the amount back – it always yields a ton of sauce.

So for dinner this week, I cooked up some rigatoni to serve with the sauce. On the side, I grilled up some eggplant and finished it in the oven with some sauce and smoked provolone cheese. And of course some crusty bread for dipping or to have with some homemade garlic, parmesan butter.

I also used some of the leftovers to make pizza on the grill to round out the week. So good (especially the longer the sauce sits and the flavors come together)

What’s growing in your garden? Whatever it is (or if the local farmer’s market has your favorites), I hope it leads to your favorite seasonal dinners. Eat well my friends!

Chicken Scampi

We’ll just call this when life gives you lemons… Seriously, this is an easy and wonderfully tasty weeknight meal that’s filled with the flavor of garlic, wine and lemon! I’d made a ton of chicken on the grill earlier in the week, so I knew this would be making an appearance on our dinner menu.

2 pounds of skinless chicken breasts, fully cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 garlic cloves
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of white wine
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp oregano
ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup parsley
lemon wedges for garnish

Place chicken in a single layer in a broiler-proof casserole dish. Crush garlic in a saucepan, melt butter into garlic. Add wine, lemon juice, salt, oregano and pepper. Heat until butter is melted. Pour over chicken, coating evenly. Place under broiler until fully heated (6-10 minutes). Top with lemon wedges and parsley.

Serve over angle hair pasta. Green beans make a perfect side dish.

Pasta on the Grill? Why Not!

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’m all about grilling this time of year. What I do tend to overlook is my side burner which is a game changer to keep you from having to run in and out of the house checking on things as you’re tending to what’s grilling. So last night, it was all about the pasta.

This is one of my go-to dishes because it’s quick, easy and satisfying. Start with tossing some broccoli in a foil pan with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and oregano. While that’s cooking, grill up some of your favorite sausage (I’m using sweet Italian chicken). Fire up a pot of salted water and add some pasta.

Toss some grated Parmesan on the broccoli when it’s almost done. Deglaze the foil pan with some chicken stock to scrape up all the browned bits and add a jar of Alfredo sauce. Chop the sausage and toss it in the sauce. Keep warm on the grill while the pasta finishes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan (if it’s a little thick, just add some pasta water).

After a final few minutes, everything gets that smokey, grilled taste. Serve it right out of the pan (it’s summer after all) after topping with chopped tomato and parsley.

What’s Cooking This Week

Spring might finally be starting to arrive here (well other than the snow that’s in the forecast for tomorrow), but it has me thinking about getting back to spending some time getting organized for the week: prepping some things to make for easier dinners and making sure the extra veggies we don’t use during the week don’t go to waste. So as today’s plans got rescheduled, I decided to have some fun in the kitchen. Honestly, I blame the productivity app on my phone that asked if I wanted to get more organized at dinner. Sometimes it’s like the thing watches what happens in our house.

Here’s what we ended up with. Not bad for a day’s work! I started with cooking some broccoli and sausage for a pasta dinner this week. I used two of my favorite kitchen gadgets: my air fryer to cook the broccoli in some olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and my grill pan to put a nice grill on the hot sausage links. It will come together as I heat them in some sauce while cooking some pasta.

Then I cleaned off the grill pan to move on to chicken to make tacos this week (since I’ve got all the veggies coming from my weekly Misfits delivery to seal the deal). One of my pandemic finds was this amazing guide on making your own spice blends so I love this mix for any kind of tacos. I’ve learned to keep the chicken from drying out, once I get the grill marks on the chicken, I just add some water to the pan to keep it juicy while it’s finishing up.

Last up, looking at the weather for tomorrow and knowing we could spend a chunk of the afternoon outside, I wanted to have something warming and ready to go when we got home so I made a batch of white chicken chili. I love the flavors in this: roasted red and poblano peppers, cannelloni beans, cooked chicken and some cayenne pepper, cumin and chili powder for heat.

Of course, I was under the watchful eye of my dutiful kitchen assistant at all times (who may have been rewarded with a taste of the cooked chicken before it got into the spicy mix!) What are your favorite prep time shortcuts?

Eat well friends!

What’s Cooking This Week

Well friends, it was pasta week this week in my kitchen. I’ll confess sometimes I’m not exactly paying attention when I plan the week’s dinners and this happens. And sometimes, we’re just in the mood for some pasta! So this week it was pasta two ways (I didn’t hear any complaints!)

First up, we have the classic chicken riggies (or is that more of an Upstate New York thing?). When I think about building layers of flavors, I think chicken riggies: the combination of the spicy cubinelle peppers and the sweetness of the roasted red peppers gets me every time. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is to wear gloves when working with any kind of spicy peppers (one benefit of the pandemic is it seems I now have a never-ending supply of disposable gloves! But back to cooking, it’s the perfect, soul-satisfying weeknight dinner that comes together with pantry staples and a couple well-planned editions to my weekly grocery list (I rarely have hot peppers in my veggie bin or heavy cream in my fridge). Just brown bite-sized pieces of chicken and set it aside while you saute onions, the cubinelles and garlic. Add crushed tomatoes and the roasted red peppers to form the sauce. To finish up, add the chicken to reheat and the heavy cream to warm through. Toss in the cooked pasta, sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan and dinner is served!

Another of our favorite pasta dishes is Italian steak and pasta. I like to start with grilling a steak that’s been rubbed with pepper, garlic power, crushed red pepper and Italian seasoning. Depending on the weather, I either cook it outside on the grill or in a grill pan on the stove top. One of the things I love is how the sauce brings together so many fresh veggies. While the steak is resting, saute zucchini and mushrooms till soft then add a can of stewed tomatoes (I do like to give them a bit of a rough chop first). Add some crushed red pepper and basil, then just stir in some cooked pasta. Top with slices of the steak and that’s it.

So probably no pasta on the menu this week, but I will never say never! What’s your favorite one-dish pasta?

Eat well friends!