In order for a meal to enter the weeknight dinner rotation at our house, it has to clear a couple of challenging hurdles: 1) it cannot take more than 40 minutes to prepare, from start to finish, and 2) it has to be something that all four members of our family will at least contemplate eating (bonus points if everyone is enthusiastic). I also try to fix meals that are reasonably healthy. I thought I'd try to highlight one of our standbys, in case any of you face similar challenges.
Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a recipe for classic marinara sauce (adapted from Lidia Bastianich). The total time for this recipe was 25 minutes, so it met our time limit. It's a very simple tomato sauce, but it hits all the right notes. Josh and I love it, and the kids will sometimes try it (don't get me started about how much they loved tomato sauce as babies and toddlers and how they refuse to eat it now!)
Because this recipe is so simple, the quality of the ingredients really matters.
The recipe has you slice the garlic cloves, rather than crushing them. The accompanying article claims that this makes for a less overpowering garlic flavor.
Then it's just a matter of adding a 28-ounce can of tomatoes, along with a little water and a pinch of red pepper flakes. After about 20 minutes of simmering, you've got some excellent homemade marinara. I use that simmering time to throw together a salad. Add some al dente spaghetti, some parmesan cheese, and a glass of Chianti and you've got dinner!
Weeknight Marinara (adapted from the New York Times and Lidia Bastianich)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes (I like the San Marzano crushed tomatoes)
pinch of red pepper flakes
sprig of fresh basil (optional)
salt to taste
Slice the garlic while you put a large skillet on medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic and cook for just a minute or two, before the garlic browns. Pour the tomatoes into the pan, and pour about a cup of water into the empty can. Use the water to rinse out the can and pour into the pan. Add the red pepper and a pinch of salt, put the basil (if using) on top of the sauce. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened. Remove basil, taste for salt and serve on top of spaghetti or other pasta.