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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter Warmer & Garlicky Marinara Sauce

Halfway through the first month of 2014, and me and my hunnie have been enjoying some Spring-like weather.  Not many places can boast 75+ degrees in mid-January, but here in the desert the temps have been in the seventies pretty much every day since Christmas!  My hunnie, the dogs and I have been taking advantage of this Winter warmer by getting outside as much as possible on our days off.  A few weeks ago we spent the afternoon working in the garden and building our very own compost box (more on that to come soon), and I've been trying to get out on weekends, as well as after work, to train for my upcoming half marathon.  Even Georgia snuck out one afternoon for some "play time" with the neighborhood cats...oh boy, that little dog is an adventurer.  Alas, when that sun disappears each night behind our cactus-covered mountains and the temperature drops to the low 40s, there's nothing better than a comfy fleece sweatshirt and a warm meal.  After bringing home around 20 pounds of grape tomatoes yesterday, I decided now was the time to learn to make large-batch homemade marinara sauce.  I usually make my own pasta sauce by combining a can of tomato sauce, meat and fresh veggies and herbs, but today was the first time I truly made the sauce from scratch.  It is a long process, especially if you don't have an extra set of hands to help you out, but the end product is incredibly warming and delicious.  After I finished cooking up the sauce, I packaged it in tupperware containers, leaving about 1/2 inch of room at the top, and preserved it in the freezer.   This way I can have time after work to get out and enjoy a jog with the dogs, and still be able to come home and put together a home-cooked meal with this classic marinara sauce. 


Garlicky Marinara Sauce
*adapted from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

~ 10 lbs tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes but you could use Romas instead)
2 bulbs garlic
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 yellow bell peppers
2 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped herbs, fresh

Start by peeling the tomatoes (follow the instructions here).  Once all tomatoes are peel, finely chop ~2/3 of tomatoes in food processor.  Pour processed tomatoes into a large sauce pan, along with remaining peeled tomatoes.  Use a potato-masher to roughly mash up remaining tomatoes. 
Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Halve and remove seeds from bell peppers, and brush with ~1 tablespoon olive oil. Place peppers on a cookie sheet.  Peel off some of the papery layers of the garlic bulb, cut the pointed top portion off, and place in an oven-safe dish.  Drizzle remaining olive oil over garlic and cover with a lid.  Roast garlic and peppers for approximately 30 minutes, until skin of peppers is blistered and garlic is soft.  Let garlic and peppers cool for 15-20 minutes. 
Once peppers are cooled, remove skins and chop.  Squeeze cooled garlic out of the skins, and chop in food processor.  Add chopped garlic to tomato sauce.  Then add the brown sugar, salt, vinegar and freshly ground pepper.  Stir and bring sauce to a boil.  Boil on low-medium heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 50 minutes, add chopped yellow pepper, stir, and continue to boil sauce for another 10 minutes. 
By this time, the marinara sauce will be cooked down to a nice thick consistency.  Remove sauce pan from heat, add fresh herbs and stir.  Let sauce cool for 30 minutes, then package in freezer-safe containers.  Enjoy within 2-3 months.  Makes about 10 cups.
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