Growing up you would always hear people say “keep the pantry stocked with the basics”. You never fully quite understand what this means until later in life when you are making meals for yourself. Now your pantry, kitchen shelves or storage has become one of your closest friends. Keeping a stocked pantry with everyday cooking essentials can be vital, not only when cooking and entertaining, but also when you are strapped for time (or cash), or the weather has you trapped indoors. We fabulous eaters here in NYC have been getting the best of what Jack Frost has to offer us. I haven't seen this much snow in the city in a long time.
One pantry favorite that I always have in my kitchen are canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes come in a variety of styles such as whole and peeled, crushed, or puree and are great to add to meals or to make meals out of. With a few cans of tomatoes you can makes soups, sauces, add-ins, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Just one basic tomato sauce recipe using canned tomatoes can yield 5+ different dinners.To start off, you want to make a large pot of basic tomato sauce, For my basic tomato sauce I rarely use tomato paste, and if I do I use a tiny bit. The sauce will get thicker the more you reheat it. Since I use this one sauce for numerous meals, I like to have the flexibility of making the sauce thin or thick for what I need it for.
Fab Basic Tomato Sauce
3- 5 cans of tomatoes, varieties optional. I like whole peeled, puree, stewed and diced
1 head of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, medium diced
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add your choice variety of canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add about 2T. of sugar to cut down the acidity, and then season with salt and pepper to your liking.
With this basic tomato sauce, you can eat fabulously 5 times over with the following meal ideas:
Spaghetti with meat sauce/ meatballs - Add your favorite ground beef, or turkey to your basic tomato sauce. Or while sauce is simmering, roll and sear some meatballs and add them in the sauce to cook. Add your favorite pasta, parmesan cheese and garlic bread!
Smokey Tomato Soup - The base of our fab tomato sauce can be transformed into tomato soup with the help of a few additional ingredients. While tomato sauce is hot, puree in a blender until smooth. Add desired amount of cream and smoked paprika or smoked chipotle and a little butter. Serve hot with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich.
Mussels in Thyme and Tomato Broth - Have mussels for dinner tonight when you add a little stock to your tomato broth, fresh thyme leaves and bring to a boil. Add cleaned fresh mussels to tomato broth and simmer until all mussels are open.
Chicken Cooked in Tomato Sauce - While tomato sauce is simmering, sear your favorite chicken parts. Add chicken to tomato sauce and continue to cook chicken in sauce until fully cooked. Spoon over creamy polenta or my favorite toasted goat cheese grits.
Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce - When brunch is needed and eggs are on the brain, place some fab tomato sauce in a oven proof dish. Crack fresh eggs on top and bake in the oven until eggs are set to your liking. Serve with bread and mimosa's. Also poached eggs are a great option as well.
*** Optional Meal: Add stock to tomato sauce and simmer Israeli couscous in tomato sauce until cooked. Add shrimp and raw and cleaned savoy spinach. Simmer until shrimp are bright pink, and couscous is cooked.