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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Freezer spaghetti sauce

 I like spaghetti; actually, spaghetti was my all-time favorite food (read : this is what I wanted for my birthday dinner) for years.  It is still my favorite comfort food ever.  However, having been raised by a mom who made her own sauce, it was difficult, even as a student, to go to canned spaghetti sauce.  So I didn’t.  However, I was frugal (cheap!) and did not have time to spend a Saturday afternoon cooking a huge pot of pasta sauce.  So came the freezer spaghetti sauce.
Here is the basic idea: you freeze bits of vegetable that you are chopping for other meals into a large yogurt container (the type you buy at the grocery store and do NOT eat in one sitting – it has a plastic lid); once the container is full, you have enough veggies for making a great spaghetti sauce. 
Ingredients for freezer spaghetti sauce:
1 yogurt container of chopped veggies (more about the veggies below)
1 lb of ground meat/beef or ½ cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
1 jar/can of tomato pasta sauce (commercial)
Start with stir frying the meat if using.  Once it is brown, add the vegetables (frozen) and stir.  Let simmer a bit (the liquid in the vegetables will come out); if the mix dries out, add water (there is enough fat in the meat that you do not have to add any).  When the veggies are soft, add the commercial pasta sauce; add a bit of water to the jar/can, swirl to get all the sauce off the sides, and pour into the mix.  Add more water if this is too thick.  Add spices and seasoning (more below).  Let simmer at least 20 min so the flavours mix well.  Done!
If you are using TVP instead of meat, start stir frying the veggies in a bit of oil. Add the TVP (dry) and the commercial pasta sauce at the same time (you do not need to soak the TVP since you are cooking it in liquid – it will pick up the flavour of the sauce if it cooks in it).  Continue with directions above.
Vegetables: the choice of your vegetable will change the flavour of your sauce every time, so do not aim for consistency from one time to another.  Almost any veg, if chopped small enough, can be put into a spaghetti sauce: onion and garlic (almost two ‘musts’ for pasta sauce!), celery, carrots (chopped small, they take too long to cook otherwise), cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, hot peppers (if you like your sauce hot), and spinach, really, almost anything.  I strongly recommend having at least some onion and garlic in your sauce – to me, it’s essential, and if I don’t have any in my freezer container, I add some from my fresh onions and garlic (garlic in a jar is great too).  Dried onion flakes and garlic powder or garlic salt are good substitutes.  Since nobody in my house likes eating the celery hearts, broccoli or cauliflower stems, I chopped all of these very finely and they are perfect for pasta sauce.  The green part of the inside of sweet pepper (not the white parts or the seeds) are good too (they are just not all that attractive in a salad).  Finally, any tomatoes (or parts of tomatoes) that are too soft to be eaten raw are chopped, frozen, and later cooked in spaghetti sauce.
Spices and seasoning: salt and pepper I use always (although often on the finished product in my plate directly), dried herbs (almost anything goes: rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, etc.; no mint, no dill); if you like your pasta spicy, a bit of chili or hot sauce.  Finally, I like to empty left over jars of different things in my pasta sauce: salsa, alfredo sauce (to make it a bit more like a rosé sauce), even a bit of BBQ sauce if I am trying to finish the bottle.  At this point, go with your guts and your sense of art.
Once made, the spaghetti sauce can be frozen in plastic (food-safe) containers – don’t forget to label them!  Bon appétit.

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