Confession of the day: I’m an absolute lover of mini meals because I consider them real treats! For example, my go-to snacks are bananas rolled in toasted almonds, rice cakes with cottage cheese and honey, or cereal with ice cold almond milk. Oh and margaritas! Because those can be considered snacks, right?
Anyway I’m getting back to the point here… I eat a lot of carbs, and that’s a problem. But you guys, I just ADORE nooks-and-crannies english muffins and basically every flavor or Cheerios to ever hit the market (minus Dulce de Leche).
Raise your hand if I just described you, too.
Surprisingly I’ve managed to stop buying both bread and cereal so now the only carb-like food lurking in my cupboards is a pack of rice cakes, low-carb tortillas, and apparently marshmallow creme, which I ate from the jar last night while watching old episodes of Felicity.
I don’t know if you know this but teen drama from the 90s is extremely stressful.
So this whole low-carb thing means that I am forced to give up pasta and opt for something else to pair tomato sauce with. That’s where spaghetti squash comes in handy; it’s gluten-free, low-carb, and freaking delicious! Did you know that one cup of spaghetti squash only has 42 calories and 8 net carbs? I can literally eat platefuls of it!
The real star today isn’t the spaghetti squash though; it’s my homemade arrabbiata sauce — a spicy tomato marinara sauce with garlic and herbs. I was reading somewhere that arrabbiato means angry in Italian, which for me just translates into one mean, spicy marinara! It is sensational, especially when paired with garden veggies.
I enjoy making homemade tomato sauce because I love knowing what ingredients are being used plus the flavors are always bold and fresh. I thought it would be fun to show you how I make my favorite sauce without canned ingredients so that you can enjoy it too! Trust me, once you try this you won’t go back.
Now obviously it isn’t tomato season, but this recipe is good year round and wonderful to freeze. I purchase organic tomatoes from Whole Foods because I find them to be the best quality during the off-season, but they can be a bit expensive so it’s up to you.
To start, the tomatoes need to be stewed. The easiest way to do this is by cutting a X into the top or bottom of each tomato.
Then bring a pot of water to a boil, and prepare a large bowl of ice water nearby.
Place the X’ed tomatoes in the boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skin begins to peel and crack off a bit. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place tomatoes immediately into the ice water for another minute or two to cool.
The tomatoes should be easy to peel at this point! I just use my hands.
Once peeled, cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds; then chop tomatoes into chunks and place in a bowl.
Yes, you’ll have a bit of a mess but it will be worth it.
Next you’ll saute the garlic, veggies, onions, and celery with a bit of olive oil. I like to use carrots too because it naturally sweetens up the sauce a bit, but you could certainly sub them with red peppers or omit entirely.
After the veggies become a bit soft you’ll add your tomatoes and tomato paste. Oh and the million dollar herbs.
Gosh I adore both smell and taste of fresh basil in my sauces. And LOTS of it too. Don’t be skimpy!
Finally you’ll add your red pepper flakes for the spice! Then bring the sauce to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. During the last 15 minutes, I add chopped zucchini. Va va voom!
After the sauce is done simmering all you’ll need to do is puree it with a hand blender or a food processor. I enjoy my sauce a bit chunky so I don’t puree it completely; often times I’ll just puree half of the sauce and then add extra veggies to it for a chunky texture.
Now the great part about this sauce is that it can practically be served with anything. Usually I’ll make stuffed chicken meatballs with spaghetti squash or even just bake my turkey meatballs and throw in a little mozzarella on top of the sauce.
Other pairings I enjoy: grilled chicken, whole grain pasta, quinoa, or a cheesy brown rice. You really can’t go wrong!
- 16 medium to large Roma tomatoes, preferrably organic
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried ground oregano
- 6-8 basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
- 3-4 medium zucchini, preferably organic, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Sprinkle in a little bit of salt. Using a knife, cut an X into the end of each tomato. In a large bowl, add water and ice. Place a few tomatoes into the boiling water for about 1 minute or until you see the skins begin to peel off ever so slightly. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and place in ice water for another minute or until cool. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.
- Once the tomatoes are cool, remove from ice water and use your fingers to remove the skin by simply peeling it back from the X you created. Then slice and chop the tomatoes and place into another large bowl until ready to cook.
- In a large dutch oven or casserole pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions become translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Then add celery, carrots, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper; saute until veggies are softened. Next add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and chili pepper flakes and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about one hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. During the last 15 minutes stir in zucchini.
- After sauce is done (the zucchini should be al dente), remove from heat and transfer half of the sauce to a blender or food processor. Try not to get the zucchini in the sauce you're about to blend. Blend/process until smooth then add the pureed sauce back to the pan. Season with more salt and pepper then serve immediately.
Sauce adapted from Clean Eating Magazine’s Everyday Marinara