Tag Archives: basil

Simple Spaghetti Sauce

My parents have always made their own spaghetti sauce. My Mom has her own version and my Dad has his own version. Don’t worry, it’s not a family war, it’s a known fact that my Dad’s version is better. My mom will admit this.

For many years, I too had my own recipe… which was going to the store and buying a jar of sauce. Having my Dad’s sauce was a treat, but in the last few years I’ve realized how easy and not so time consuming it is to make your own sauce… and how it tastes 100% better. So, I’m here to spill the secret recipe.

I like to make a big batch of this and freeze any leftovers I have.

 My Dad’s Simple Spaghetti Sauce

2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced (or more!)
2 28oz cans of diced tomatoes (organic, plz)
1 15oz can of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1-2 pours of good red wine (A few tablespoons each pour)
2 teaspoons of oregano
2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
Fresh basil if available
salt and pepper to taste
1. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan. When it starts to shimmer add the garlic. Cook for a minute or two so that the garlic turns a golden color. Stop before it turns brown!
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, 1 tablespoon sugar and spices. Let this simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes. (NOTE: if you want a thicker sauce, drain the tomatoes and keep the juice for when you make soup or bloody mary mix).
3. Stir the pot often, but try not to let the water that will collect on the lid get into the sauce!
4. After 20 minutes, taste the sauce and see what else it needs. More spices and wine never hurt (I think I need an apron that says that..) if it tastes too acidic add more sugar. Add in fresh basil if you have it here.
5. Cook for 20 more minutes at a tad lower heat, stirring frequently.
6. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the chunks to the consistency you want your sauce to be. I tend to like a balance between smooth and chunky so I do about 15-25 seconds of blending. The blending will break up the basil as well.
7. The sauce is ready to eat, or feel free to continue simmering. The longer it cooks down, the better it tastes.

See? Not hard. You have to chop some garlic, open some cans, shake in some spices and things and stir a few times! This sauce is even better (200%?) if you have tomatoes that you canned your self. You can even use fresh tomatoes that you roast or fresh tomatoes that you chop.

Invite me over!


Farmers Market Summer Orzo

We decided not to get a CSA share this year because we were really missing waking up early and heading to the farmers market during the weekend. There are so many farmers markets in the Twin Cities (more than 50!) and we’ve been trying new ones a few times a month.

When we were in Santa Barbara on vacation a few weeks ago, we went to the best farmers market we’ve ever been to. It was amazing and now I want to live there, but this weekend we tried the Downtown St. Paul farmers market and it’s a close second.

VIP treatment for these veggies at brunch: in the new market basket we bought in Santa Barbara and hanging out on a chair at brunch!

VIP treatment for these veggies at brunch: in the new market basket we bought in Santa Barbara and hanging out on a chair!

My plan of attack at a farmers market is to see what looks good and figure out the weeks meals off of what we buy. We wound up with zucchini, summer squash, cherry tomatoes, basil, fingerling potatoes, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and eggs that were allegedly laid the day before.

There is a 100% chance I will at some point in the week throw some veggies into a pasta dish for an easy weeknight dinner. And that is exactly what this Farmers Market Summer Orzo dish is; something I threw together that wound up looking pretty and tasting delicious.

photo (7)

Farmers Market Summer Orzo

1 cup dry orzo
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 large zucchini
1 large yellow summer squash
1/2-1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 handful basil (10-15 leaves), chiffonaded
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Garlic Salt, Pepper to taste

1. Cook orzo according to package, set aside. Try to do this while you are preparing all other ingredients so it doesn’t get too cold.
2. Chop zucchini squash and yellow squash either in half moon shape or circle shape (try to get them all the same size)
3. In a large skillet, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil. Saute squash until it is fork tender.
4. Chop cherry tomatoes in half, roast them in the oven on 350 for about 7-9 minutes, throw them in the skillet.
5. Add cooked orzo and peas, garlic salt and pepper to taste and stir.
6. Finish with basil and parmesan cheese.farmers market summer orzo

See, really easy. This tasted really good with the orzo, it made the flavors of the veggies stand out a bit more than typical pasta. But overall, just take whatever you find at the Farmers Market (or store, or even your freezer), saute it up, add some pasta and boom: dinner.

This also works really well with pesto stirred in. Not that we had the exact same thing (plus broccoli and pesto) two nights later or anything….

CSA box #16

This box is a mix of summer and fall and includes: beets, basil, edamame, red kabocha squash, watermelon, leaf lettuce, red grape tomatoes, pepper mix, cabbage, green beans and onions.

Our newsletter let us know this will be the last of the basil, green beans, watermelon and tomatoes as we already had our first frost. Oh well, bring on the squash!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Well, after googling “too much zucchini” I had to start googling “too many tomatoes.” My plant exploded over the last week and left me with about 4 lbs of tomatoes. The weather has also decided to turn into fall, so a soup was the best idea I could come up with.

I also really love tomato basil soups but have found the canned ones taste awful and the ones in restaurants tend to be a little on the creamy side.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
(Adapted from Ina Garten)


  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes cut in quarters
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (aprpox 2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine (whatever is on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned tomatoes, with their juice (I used diced)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 quart stock or water

1.Preheat the oven to 400. Toss together the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet (or two) and roast for 45 minutes.
2. In an big stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 1 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 8 minutes–or until the onions start to brown.
3. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and water or stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
5. Use a hand blender to blend together. Taste for seasonings.

It’s really pretty easy. Especially if you order a stick mixer overnight from Amazon.com like I did. I have held out for years on buying an immersion blender for years, but I urge you to purchase one STAT. Maybe skip the overnight shipping…

This soup needs a little something, maybe a tablespoon of cream or milk, but I’ll let my book club tonight be the judge.

CSA box #11

#11 includes: broccoli, candy onions, sweet corn, early girl, heirloom and sungold cherry tomatoes, cucumber, a big galia melon, beets, kohlrabi, basil, summer squash, zucchini and garlic.




By now, your basil plant is probably growing like a weed. Mine was…

…until I decided to make delicious pesto.

I have made pesto a ton of times, but it never turned out as good as my parents use to make. It turned out I never seemed to put the simple ingredients in the food processor at the right time until I saw this video.

I found a good recipe from Ina Garten, so I’ll modify it a bit. As far as ingredients go, I use whats listed below, but I don’t measure anything.

Pesto: The Ingredients (adapted-ish from Ina Garten)

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (I use raw)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • just enough  good olive oil that the pesto is smooth
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Squeeze of lemon to taste

1. Drop the garlic in the food processor and pulse til it’s tiny.

2. Add the nuts, pulse till they are tiny.

3. Add the basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and pulse just so they are mixed up a bit.

4. Stream in some olive oil. Just enough so that it’s at the consistency you want it… but not enough so that it’s gross and oily.

5. Add the parmesan and puree for one minute.

6. Taste it, and if you need more of something (lemon, salt, etc), add it! 

The next step is to PUT THE PESTO AWAY!! Ina Garten was right when she mentioned in her recipe that air is the enemy of pesto. Air turns it brown and makes the flavor a little funky. To solve this, I make a huge batch for whatever meal I’m making and freeze the rest.

That’s right… freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. (Thanks again for the tip, parents!) Basil is hard to find in the winter, so you’ll thank yourself.
Freeze these cubes over night, then pop each out, wrap it in saran wrap and put them in a baggie with the date on it. Take one or two out for whatever it is that your’re cooking and let them defrost for an hour on the table (don’t microwave) and boom, fresh homemade pesto… again!!
This pesto can EASILY be made vegan if you just leave out the cheese. It’s pretty delicious that way too.

CSA box #6

I finally got the honor of being able to walk down to French Meadow to pick up the CSA box and this weeks box was heavy! Our CSA boxes keep getting bigger and bigger and soon we are going to probably have to turn vegan to keep up with all of our veggies.

I feel like I say this every week but… Jackpot!! From the top: baby spinach, beets, salad greens, basil, yukon gold and new potatoes, broccoli, fresh garlic, green beans, cucumber, yellow squash and zucchini.

What would you do with those beets?