Tomato Sauce

Hello! Welcome to $40/week Homemade Meals. Each week, this mini project is going to feature one or two ingredients and showcase a few ways of of how to maximize their usage in cooking!

This week’s item: A Jar of Tomato Sauce. Now, before this starts an outcry from those who advocate making your own tomato sauce, I would like to note a couple of important things. Firstly, a jar of tomato sauce is convenient and it is relatively  inexpensive. I usually get a jar of the tomato and basil marinara from Trader Joe’s for about $1.99. Also, I add ingredients to enhance the sauce, like by adding caramelized diced onions, garlic, thyme, and basil. However, if you do have the time, I highly recommend making tomato sauce and freezing it!

Here is a great recipe from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis (

Okay, back to that $1.99 jar of Tomato Sauce. Why tomato sauce? Well, it offers high concentrations of tomato which are linked to lowering risk of cancer. Also, tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.

I’m going to divide that one jar into approximate thirds and use each 1/3 in one of the follow three recipes

(RECIPE #1) Simple Pasta with Creamy Vodka Tomato Sauce
Servings Made: 2
Prep + Cooking Time: 30 minutes

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are few things to keep in mind. Tomato sauce is a condiment. Avoid drowning pasta is a pool of sauce. Instead, let it just coat the pasta. To really maximize the nutrients in your dish, treat pasta like a condiment too and throw in as many veggies as you can!

1.5 – 2 cups of uncooked pasta
3/4 cup of sauce  (~1/3 of the jar)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 diced white onion
3-4 pressed cloves of garlic
handful of broccoli
8-10 pieces of shrimp
1/3 cup of low-fat milk
1 teaspoon of vodka (as if you don’t have alcohol in your pantry)
fresh basil
salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste

Cook the pasta in boiling water until almost done (al dente). This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes. I just take a bite of one to make sure it’s cooked to the way I like it. In the meantime, heat up another saucepan on medium to medium high for 2 minutes. Then add your olive oil! You should be able to see the color change slightly, the viscosity decrease, and a very slight smoke come from the oil when it is hot enough. This shouldn’t take long especially if you heat the pan before adding the oil. Toss in your diced onions. Saute for a few minutes and then lower the heat to low. Let the onions caramelize for about 10 more minutes on this low heat. Turn the heat up to medium and add in the garlic and shrimp. Once the shrimp is cooked, add in the broccoli. Then, add in the milk and vodka. Slowly add the tomato sauce a little bit at a time. This will prevent the milk from being shocked by the acidity of the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and stir it into your mixture. Add salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste. Right before serving, sprinkle slices of the fresh basil on top. Bing bam boom. Dinner is ready.  (Note: if you want your sauce to be creamier, then you can sprinkle in some cheese and stir it into the sauce).

You can really change this up. Pasta is what you make of it…or rather what you add to it, like carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, chicken, beans, etc etc. I love keeping it simple with adding a protein (shrimp) and vegetable (broccoli) to my pasta like this linguine dish:

(RECIPE #2): Grilled Cheese W Spicy Tomato Sauce

Servings Made: 2 Sandwiches
Prep + Cooking Time: 20 minutes

This is super simple! The best part is that you can add anything to your sandwich: chicken, spinach, bacon….ANYTHING. If you have a panini press, then by all means, please use it! Otherwise, get your pan ready and let’s do this. This recipe is great especially when it’s the end of the week and you don’t know what to do with your leftover ingredients/produce. However, I don’t recommend adding more than one ingredient or else you really lose the essence of the grilled cheese. That’s why I usually add spinach to mine. It makes me feel less bad about eating all that cheese. But it’s okay! Cheese isn’t evil in moderation :) Add whatever you’d like to pump up your grilled cheese sammich. Grilled cheese connoisseurs may not agree with my usage of sliced whole wheat bread, but I eat it on a daily basis. It’s what’s in my pantry!

4 slices of Whole Wheat Bread
Shredded Cheese (melts faster than sliced cheese)
1/2 – 3/4 cup of tomato sauce
Extra Ingredients (chicken, spinach, bacon, etc)

Heat your pan at low to medium low. Don’t get it too hot or else it’s going to burn the bread!! This is key: lightly spread the butter on the bread and NOT the pan. Place two slices of bread with the buttered sides down. Evenly sprinkle some cheese on each slice. Your sandwich will be done when the cheese is full melted. Add your extra ingredients if you want. My friend pointed out that you can also put the assembled sandwich into the toaster oven for a couple of minutes for maximum awesomeness.

A lot of people like the sauce in the sandwich already but I prefer to have the sauce on the side. It’s less messy and I like to dip it in! To give it extra kick, I add red chili flakes into my sauce and heat the sauce until it’s hot. Mmmmm…This grilled cheese sandwich with spicy tomato sauce warms the soul on a cold day.

(RECIPE #3): Ratatouille
Servings Made: 3-4
Prep + Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
4 handfuls of diced vegetables
1/2-3/4 cups of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic
This is the simplest dish you will ever make. Why? All you have to do is throw all your vegetables in a pan and add the tomato sauce. This is a wonderful dish to get rid of all your produce that may spoil in the next few days. My friend does this with her boyfriend each week: they will stir fry all their vegetables together and add tofu to it. She calls it “Garbage Tuesdays” or “Garbage Tofu.” I know it sounds terrible, but really, it’s such a great idea. Not only will you prevent food waste, you’ll be eating such a vitamin rich side dish or main entree. Adding the tomato sauce is a great alternative to eating boring and bland steamed vegetables!

Enjoy!! I hope you try out these recipes and as always, feel free to write a comment below to let other readers know about your own variations of these recipes!

Eat well,

Thomas :)


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