I like tasty, healthy, homemade food, but I also like convenience and timeliness in the kitchen, so when the two things can harmonize perfectly, I am a happy camper…er, cooker.
This sauce is easy to make, freezes wonderfully (I share my freezing process below), and tastes great. I use it anytime a recipe calls for marinara sauce (or makes its own as part of the recipe), and we use it as a pizza sauce as well.
I estimate this batch makes about 3 jars of sauce; I often double the recipe.
I began with this recipe from Thriving Home (they have some other great freezer recipes you should check out too!), and then made a few changes in true Planned Spontaneity style…
- 2 T. butter
- 1-2 cups of chopped vegetables…my favorite is a mix of onion, zucchini, bell pepper, and mushrooms, but I’ve also successfully used carrots and celery and have thoughts of spinach, parsnips, summer squash and broccoli, among others; just be sure you use smaller quantities of strongly-flavored veggies, like the broccoli, and have fun cleaning out your fridge!
- 1 T. (at least!) chopped garlic
- 4 – 28oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
- 1 c. water
- salt and pepper to taste (start with about 1 tsp. each and then adjust near the end of cooking)
- 3 T. total (i.e. 3 T. Italian seasoning, or 1 T. each parsley/basil/oregano, etc.) dried parsley, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, or a mix and match
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Melt butter in a non-stick skillet and saute all veggies until softened. Allow to cool slightly and then process in a blender or food processor until mostly smooth.
Add veggie mixture and all remaining ingredients to a big crock pot (at least 5 quarts, but I love my 7 quart-er for this!) and cook on low 4-12 hours…4 hours if you’re following the original recipe; 12 hours if you have an exceptionally tiring day at work and accidentally take a 4 hour nap when you get home; 6-8 hours for that sweet spot in between.
To freeze, allow to cool slightly and portion out into muffin tins and freeze. This is approximately 1/4 c. sauce each. If you are smarter than me, you’ll remember to spray the muffin tin with cooking spray first and the little sauce blocks will just fall right out. If you forget or have a few stubborn ones, simply flip the whole pan and run a little warm water over the stubborn cup. Toss your cute little sauce muffins into labeled freezer bags and store for later use.
I will use one “muffin” if I’m making pizza, or 4-6 “muffins” for something like spaghetti. I might also add a little extra water to the sauce during cooking to stretch it a little further, but don’t worry, it has plenty of taste to stretch.
*Just a note regarding Thriving Home’s caution in the original recipe on purchasing tomato products in glass jars: since their original recipe was published, most companies have begun using a bpa-free liner in their cans, so I choose to save my pennies and purchase the canned variety.