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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce (Tomato)

Tomato has always been my favourite fruit, or more precisely favorite veggie until I learned it was actually not one. So what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable, a vegetable? Basically if it has seeds, then technically (botanically), it's a fruit. So does that means cucumbers, green beans and walnuts are all fruits? Yes. And the rest of the plant where the fruit is from like the leaves (spinach), stems (celery), roots (carrots) and flowers (cauliflower) are referred as vegetables.

For the record, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, A & K, molybdenum, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1,B2 & B6, folate, copper, niacin, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E and protein. With all these healthy benefits, we should eat more of this fruit. Don't you agree?;-)

Tomatoes are sensitive to cold, so don't put unripe tomatoes in the refrigerator as the cold temperature will impede their ripening process. It is best to store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. However, if the overripe tomatoes are not ready to be eaten, keep them in the refrigerator (it will keep for another one or two more days). Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator tend to lose flavor but they will regain maximum flavour and juiciness if taken out 30 minutes before using them. To hasten the ripening process, place tomatoes in a paper bag with a banana or apple.

As you might guessed it by now, today's recipe is all about tomatoes, lots of it.:-) Today I'm introducing a very popular Italian sauce called marinara sauce. Why is it popular? Simply because it is very quick and easy to prepare and the simplicity of this sauce makes it a very common and versatile base for many Italian dishes. The word marinara derives from the Italian word for sailor, marinaro (please correct me if I'm wrong). This sauce dated back to the 16th century, originated from Naples - back then, it was a very popular sauce to cook by the cooks on board sailing ships as it is easy to whip up, meatless and the high acid content of the tomatoes makes the sauce last longer.

This is my all time favourite pasta sauce. I have tried so many times to replicate this sauce sans success until my mom-in law gave me this book recently. All that went wrong with my 'tryings' is simply I didn't add enough tomatoes. Duh! Something so simple yet has such big enough impact on it. Amazing, isn't it.

Sphaghetti with Marinara Sauce (Tomato)

Taken from Cooking Light - Pasta

Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp minced garlic
  • 2.7 kg or 6 cups tomatoes (coarsely chopped & peeled)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • ¼ cup fresh persil (chopped)
  • cooked sphaghetti (600 g uncooked sphaghetti)
Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
Directions
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, let it cook for about 2 minutes stirring it frequently.
  3. Add tomato, season it with salt & pepper, bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, let it simmer for 25 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
  4. Add in chopped basil & persil, let it cook for 1 minute.
  5. Serve with pasta and parmesan (optional).
Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
The Verdict

Obviously it's very tomatoey, and you'll taste the difference if you use quality tomatoes. I only had dried basil and persil but this was so flavorful and "sunny", just imagine using fresh ones! Little One loves it and so did the adults who had 2nd and 3rd helpings.

Notes

Normally I cook a big batch of it and freeze the sauce in small batches - it comes in handy on days when I don't know what to cook or run out of food in the fridge or a very hungry kid or adults who can't wait for me to slave over the stove to present a big meal.:-)

For some kick in the pasta, add some dried chili when you are cooking the garlic. You can either remove them before adding the tomato or just leave them in. If you have little mouths, scoop up some sauce aside for them and throw in some freshly cut chilies to the rest of the sauce for adults.

Peeling tomatoes

Score a small 'X' with a knife at the bottom of each tomatoes. Place them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and quickly plunge them in iced water to stop the cooking. The skin is easily removed once the tomatoes are cooled.

Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
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Lasagne

It's funny how I have thought for years that lasagne were difficult and complicated to make - I mean, looking at the multiple layers of pasta and tomato sauce oozing out with the cripsy cheese on top etc. I thought only chef could whip that up... definitely not for the layman I used to be.

Now you would have thought that since I have now done quite a few dishes, making lasagne would be child's play for me... well, a few days ago I was still thinking that making lasagne was really complicated and beyond my cooking capability.:-p Why in the world do I still think that way, I have no idea. It's strange, isn't it. However after making these lasagne the other night, I realised that sometimes something that may look complicated sometime isn't. You should have seen my jaw dropped on the floor when I was preparing them - it is really is child's play: a layer of this and a layer of that, repeat it a few times and top it with grated cheese. Et voilà !

For this post, I really have Pierre and Michèle to thank for. Why ? If not for him thinking of his mom's lasagne and requesting for it, I wouldn't have overcome my cooking shyness. And thank you Michèle for sharing your recipe with us.

Lasagne

Serves : 6

Ingredients
  • 1 pack lasagne
  • 1 clove garlic (cut into half)
  • 3 onions (chopped)
  • 450 g minced beef & pork
  • 600 ml tomato puree
  • herbes de provence
  • salt & pepper
  • grated cheese
  • 750 ml béchamel sauce
lasagne, lasagna
Directions
  • Prepare your béchamel and meat sauce first and set it aside.
  • Rub the halved garlic all over the sides and base of a deep rectangle baking dish (or gratin dish). Don't throw it away after that - chop it up and cook it together with the meat sauce.

Making lasagne

  1. Preheat oven at 210°C (410°F - gas mark 7).
  2. Spread some béchamel sauce on the base of the prepared rectangle baking dish (or gratin dish), then lay each piece of lasagna side by side. It should more or less cover the dish.
  3. Put some meat sauce all over the dish, followed by a layer of béchamel sauce on top of it. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of the béchamel sauce.
  4. Lay another layer of lasagne on top of it, followed by the meat sauce, then the béchamel sauce and some grated cheese. Repeat this until all meat is used up and end the dish with lasagna and a layer of béchamel sauce with grated cheese generously sprinkled all over.
  5. Bake it for about 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown like gratin.
  6. Serve hot and enjoy !

Making Meat Sauce (Bolognese)

  1. Heat up pan with some olive oil, when it's hot, stir-fry the chopped onions until it is golden and sort of transparent (it will be very aromatic). Throw in the chopped garlic.
  2. Add in the minced beef & pork and mix it well, making sure that the meat are broken up into small pieces.
  3. Sprinkle the amount of herbs de provence according to your liking. Season it with salt & pepper.
  4. When the meat is almost cooked, pour in the tomato puree and mix it well. Check to see seasoning is to your taste. Add more if needed.

Making Béchamel Sauce

  1. Melt 50 g butter in a pot at medium heat, add in 50 g plain flour and stir it vigorously with a whisk. Continue to stir vigorously until you obtain a mousse like mixture.
  2. Stir in 750 ml milk a little at a time (make sure it's well incorporated), vigorously to avoid getting lumps.
  3. When about half the milk is in, switch to a balloon whisk and start adding large amounts of milk instead, but always whisking briskly.
  4. Whisk it until it thickens, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting.
  5. Season it with salt, nutmeg and pepper.
  6. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes (whisk it from time to time) and then remove from heat.
lasagne, lasagnalasagne, lasagnalasagne, lasagna
The Verdict

The flavour of meat sauce and béchamel blend so nicely together giving these lasagne a rich and creamy taste that makes you long for the next bite, just to get more of the flavour. It is so good that you can easily over-indulge yourself. So be warned! The texture is a bit rich because I put a lot of béchamel sauce, you might want to put a little bit less of it if you like your lasagne to feel less creamy.

Notes

This is a great dish to prepare in several quantity and freeze it to be baked later whenever you wish.

Btw: In the US, this dish is commonly known as 'lasagna' (singular) while the rest of the world refer it as 'lasagne' (plural).

lasagne, lasagna
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La Pissaladière

La pissaladière (pissaladiera in Provencal dialect) is a culinary specialty of the region of Nice. As it is some sort of onion pie, it is often considered as a type of pizza, and in fact the traditional Pissaladière is made with bread dough, along with pissalat, a sort of a paste or salted cream made from sardines or salted anchovies which gives this dish its name. As time passed, the pissalat has been replaced by the anchovies cream or filets.

The Pissaladière that I'm going to introduce is a modified version of Michèle's. I haven't forgotten my mushrooms - the recipe will be coming next;-)

La Pissaladière

(Michèle's recipe)

  • 1 shortcrust pastry or pizza dough
  • 4 big onions (sliced)
  • 4 tomatos (thick slices)
  • 1 can of anchovies
  • some olives (sliced, optional)
  • some herbs of Provence (or a mix of savory, marjoram, rosmary, thyme and sage - optional)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 210°C (410°F - gas mark 6).
  2. Heat up some olive oil in the pan or wok and saute the onions till they are a bit golden brown. Sprinkle some salt on it.
  3. Lay the onions onto the pie dough, spread sliced tomatos on top of the onions. Sprinkle some dried herbs on it, and then some anchovies and sliced olives.
  4. Bake it for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Pissaladière ingredientsPissaladière
Conclusions

Not only it's delicious and flavourful, it's also a simple, easy to fix and healthy meal (unlike your regular pizza, no cheese or sausage in there ). It's an effective solution to get kids to eat veggies.;-)

Notes

It tastes great even without the herbs sprinkled on top of it. The sauté onions just bring out all the delicious flavour.

Pissaladière
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