Dinner Dilemna? Keep a Go-To Recipe

29 Oct

At the end of a good dinner body and soul both enjoy a remarkable sense of well-being.

–Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

We are balancing a full plate of activities and tasks; however dinner is important for our well-being.  We all need a go-to recipe to help make getting that dinner meal on the table easier. My go-to recipe is tomato sauce; once the sauce is made you can keep a batch on hand in the freezer.  The sauce is a blank canvas that you can embellish to make pizza, and plenty of pastabilities with your favorite ingredients.

Robust Tomato Sauce is an easy answer to "what's for dinner?"

Robust Tomato Sauce is an easy answer to “what’s for dinner?”

This recipe was inspired by one from a colleague when I worked at Southern Living magazine. It’s a richly flavored sauce with a dash of spice.  Most often I’ll add Italian sausage when making spaghetti or lasagna, but it is just as good with ground beef.  Toss this sauce with the pasta of your choice, plus a hearty green salad to create an easy dinner for family and friends.

Robust Tomato Sauce

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Italian Seasoning Mix (recipe below)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes

2 (8-oz.) cans tomato sauce

11/4 cup cold water

3/4 cup red wine

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 to 4 tablespoons lemon honey*

Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in Italian Seasoning Mix, and cook 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and red wine; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 40 to 45 minutes or slightly thickened. Stir in salt and honey. YIELD: Approximately 10 cups sauce.

*Adjust to taste, if you like a more or less sweet tomato sauce.

Italian Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup dried basil leaves

2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. dried oregano

2 to 4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper*

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

Process basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and black peppercorns in a food processor 1 minute or until mixture is a fine powder. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 months.

*Adjust to taste if you like more or less spicy.


Pizza is an easy fix with on-hand tomato sauce, ready-to-use crust and your fav toppings.

Pizza is an easy fix with on-hand tomato sauce, ready-to-use crust and your fav toppings.

Keep ready-to-use pizza crust on hand or pick-up fresh pizza dough from the supermarket.

1 14-oz. ready-to-use Boboli  original pizza crust

2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 cup Robust Tomato Sauce

8-ozs. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 lb. lightly cooked spinach, drained

Mushroom slices

Red bell pepper strips

2 ozs. shredded Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 450°. Brush crust with olive oil. Spoon approximately 3/4 cup Robust Tomato Sauce onto crust, spreading almost to edge of crust.  Top sauce with half of mozzarella cheese, spinach, mushrooms, red bell pepper strips, remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Place on pizza pan or rack of oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes or until crust edges are golden brown.

Pizza is one of my favorites-with the sauce and crust on-hand, I’m enjoying it way to often. What’s your go-to recipe?


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