Saturday, January 31, 2015

Weekend Cooking: Feeling Saucy

I did something new to me a few weeks ago. I made a tomato pasta sauce from scratch, and it really wasn't that hard. The thing that has excited me about this is how versatile this sauce was once I had made it. I had never really thought of how many different ways you can use a sauce. So in this week's Weekend Cooking I am going to talk about the different ways I used this Tomato Pasta Sauce.

First though, I posted the recipe as part of my most recent weekend cooking post for Garlic Prawns, but I am going to repost it here too.

Tomato Pasta Sauce

1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 kg ripe tomatoes, chopped

Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion, carrot, capsicum and garlic. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until onion softens.

Add tomato. Increase heat to high. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until tomato breaks down and forms a sauce. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Transfer sauce to a food processor and process until smooth. Return to pan. Use immediately or either freeze or store in sterilised jars.

I originally found this recipe in the most recent Diabetic Living magazine. I really liked that the magazine not only posted the recipe but also that it then used it in other recipes through out the magazine, like the Garlic Prawns recipe.  One of the suggestions on how to use the sauce include to toss through cooked pasta with chargrilled chicken and seasonal vegies and then top with basil leaves, parmesan and pepper. It was mentioned that you can either bottle this in sterilised glass jars or freeze in 1 cup portions. 

Another suggestion is to use the sauce on pizza bases and top with vegies, prawns and some low fat cheese.  Whilst I didn't follow this suggestion exactly, I did make a pizza on wholemeal pita bread using this sauce as the base and topped it with poached chicken breast, red onion, red capsicum, baby spinach leaves and topped with some baby bocconcini because I had most of these ingredients left from the salad that I made to go with the prawns I posted recently. It looked and tasted awesome!

One of the recipes that the sauce was used in in the magazine was a Cheesy Tomato Gnocchi which sounds delicious but I am not the biggest gnocchi fan so not sure if I will make it.

There were two other things that I did with the sauce after I had made it. I was pretty excited with the idea of actually using the pasta sauce as exactly that. I was going to have proper pasta for the first time in months. The only way I have been having pasta for the last nine months is in lasagne. There is actually no reason why being diabetic stops you from having pasta as long as you watch your serving size which according to the recommendations should be around a cup of cooked pasta. The biggest issue is that most of the time we eat way too much and then we top it with lots of tasty but not necessarily all that healthy other ingredients. 

I had my dinner all planned out. I was going to have some chicken with pasta and tomato sauce and some steamed vegies. Only problem was that my teenage son, who loves to eat raw pasta, has eaten all the pasta in the house. The only type that we had left was risoni, the rice-like pasta. Good low GI food but not precisely the pasta dinner I was looking for! It ended up being a bit of an odd dinner all round.

The final way I used it was in the following recipe which I originally found in Symply Too Good To Be True book 2. This has fast become one of our favourite meals to eat. I am always amused by the dietician's comment which is "At last a chicken parmigiana that tastes like you find at the pub but without it being high in fat". Now, it is good but it doesn't taste like a great chicken parma from the pub! Here is the original recipe:

Chicken Parmagiana

4x125g skinless chicken breasts
Cooking spray
75g 97% fat-free ham slices
4 tblspns no-added-salt tomato paste
1 cup 25% reduced-fat grated tasty cheese

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.

Flatten chicken breasts using a meat mallet. Place on a baking tray that has been coated with cooking spray. Place ham slices evenly on top of each flattened piece of chicken, spread 1/4 of tomato paste over each breast, sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 25-30 minutesor until chicken is cooked through. 

Since I started making this I have done it as described above but I have also made it just using canned tomatoes that have been strained and using Tomato Supreme (which is a mix of tomato, capsicum and onion) but this time around I used the pasta sauce and it was definitely super tasty! One thing is that I don't tend to flatten the chicken breast all that much as it stays nice and moist. I also tend to only have half a chicken breast and use the rest the next day or for lunch.

Just from this one time of making this sauce from scratch I am definitely inspired to make it again, to freeze some servings ready for those days when I just need something quick and tasty and to make some of these things again as well as maybe trying something new! It also sounds super organised which is something new and unusual for me.

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  1. I used to make my own sauce and then got lazy. I like how simple this is to make, plus I *love* all the different ways you used it. That pizza looks awesome and I like that chicken too. I agree that this would be a great thing to keep in the freezer.

    1. One bonus of making it myself was that you know what is in there and keep control of the amount of salt in the food. I must admit I am pretty damned impressed with how my pizza looks.

      I will definitely be making this again.

  2. You went all out and have some great looking meals here. Homemade can make a huge difference in taste. Thanks for sharing this recipe,

    1. Surprisingly, it didn't feel like I went all out at all Tina! That really surprised me!

  3. Yum! I made a ton of tomato sauce a couple of years ago from the tomatoes from my garden and it was delicious. I need to keep these recipes in mind. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Yum! I hope to do more "do it yourself" this year. I want to have a garden.

    1. I want to have a garden too Sheila. I just don't want to do the work associated with that!!

  5. I never thought to add capsicum (had to google to see that it's peppers!) to tomato sauce but I bet it would add a yummy dimension. Maybe better when roasted, too! I've started making my own sauce but since it's tough to find yummy tomatoes here I sadly use canned tomatoes as the base. I've tried growing tomatoes two years in a row but we just don't have enough sun. Boo!

  6. I love a good, versatile homemade tomato sauce. We don't have a vegetable garden anymore and I sure miss those ripe summer tomatoes! All the dishes you mentioned -- pizza, chicken parmesan, and the garlic prawns are things we love at our house. :)