recipes: my mom's famous marinara sauce

I am not one who normally attempts many recipes on blogs because I can't tell how the person cooks normally. But I am always on the lookout for staples to make an add to my meal planning lists. My mom's sauce is one of the most versatile staples. You can make your basic pasta and sauce, chicken Parmesan, pizza, raviolis, basically anything paired with a carb or some veggies. Her meatballs are AMAZING but we are keeping that one a secret ;) One of our family traditions is to cook and I hope you will learn to love cooking as much as we do.

This sauce is cooked best when you have time to let it cook in order to bring out it's full flavor. If you are on a time crunch it can easily be made into a quick sauce (around 1 hour). A lot of sauces I have tried have a lot of dried herbs and our family tends to like simple bold flavors, so do not be surprised for the lack of ingredients. 


Phyllis' Marinara Sauce

1 can of tomato sauce

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

6 basil leaves

1 can of tomato paste

Olive oil

Red wine

Salt and Pepper

In a big sauce pot on Medium heat sautee the crushed garlic until translucent and right before it browns. Add the can of sauce, paste, and then I add 1/2 a can of water (use the sauce can as a measuring cup) and add it to the sauce. Bring heat to High and the sauce to a boil. Once boiling add some salt, a good splash of wine, the basil and some pepper. Stir and bring the sauce to a simmer on Low and put the lid on. Stir often and let sauce simmer for at least an hour (I like to let it cook on low for at least 2 hours). Be sure to taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Serve over pasta and add parmesan cheese.

Let me know how it goes and buono appetito! 

Wine for the sauce and wine for the chef.

Wine for the sauce and wine for the chef.

my go-to winter soup recipes

I am a soup girl. January, June, November and every month in-between, it doesn't matter when because I am always craving soup! My two favorite soups to make are Pasta Fagioli (or what I like to call The Best Vegetable Soup) and Classic Chicken Noodle soup. Everyone in my family loves both of these recipes and they are even better as leftovers, so they are always a favorite around here. I also love how these two soups are one pot deals and do not require much maintenance. Some of my other favorites (but that I don't cook very often are) French Onion (my personal favorite!), Potato and Leek soup, Lentil, Tomato Basil, and Italian Wedding Soup. Having grown up in Connecticut, soup was a staple during the cold, snowy winter months and even though I am a San Diego girl now my love for these comfort foods will never change.

My Pasta Fagioli recipe is one that I learned from the blog Proud Italian Cook. My one rule of thumb for this recipe is that you MUST include Parmesan cheese rinds in it. The saltiness it brings to the soup is, in my opinion, the key (and secret) ingredient.

Pasta Fagioli

2 Leeks

1 Green zucchini

1 Yellow zucchini 

1 bunch of Swiss chard or 1 bag of Baby spinach

3 Carrots diced

3 Garlic cloves

1 Red potato

1 Can of diced tomatoes

2 Cans of White beans

2 containers of chicken broth

2 Sprigs of Rosemary

2 Parmesan cheese rinds

1 lb of Ditalini or Anici de Bep pasta

Salt and Pepper

Dice carrots, leeks, potato, zucchini, and leeks. Add all of these into a big soup pot and then add minced garlic cloves and some olive oil. On medium high heat mix this all together until translucent (3-4 minutes) after this add the two cans of white beans, two containers of chicken broth, the can of diced tomatoes and salt and pepper. Bring the heat to high and once it begins to boil add the rosemary sprig, cheese rids and either spinach or swiss chard. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let this cook for at least an hour stirring once in a while. Boil the pasta. Once the soup is finished taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Remove the rosemary sprigs and the cheese rinds.

I serve the soup with some pasta (Dialini, Macaroni, Fartalline, or my husband's favorite Acini di pepe) and then I grate fresh Parmesan on top. This soup is great with some crusty bread and tastes even better the next day. It seems like this soup has a lot of parts but honestly the only hard part is prepping the veggies. I love to cook this because it is so full of nutrients and has a little something for everyone in it. Enjoy!

For my Classic Chicken Noodle Soup I usually cook this when I have one or two rotisserie chicken carcasses on hand. My mom makes her soup with a whole raw chicken, but I personally hate touching raw meat with bones so I opt for the cooked carcass instead. 

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 Rotisserie Chickens (meat removed)

1 Onion

1 bag of carrots

2 Celery Stalks

Chicken Bouillon

1 bag of ABC noodles

Salt and Pepper

In a big soup pot dump your chicken carcass in and fill with water 3/4 of the way. Add your bag of baby carrots, two celery stalks (I do not cut these), and one onion (not cut up, I remove this once soup is finished).  Bring this to a boil and then add some salt, pepper, and one tablespoon of chicken bouillon. I have tried making this without the bouillon and the flavor is just not there. I let this cook on a simmer for 3 hours. Once this is done I drain the soup into another pot so that I can make sure no soft bones end up in the soup. I remove the baby carrots from the strainer and put them back into the pot and throw out the celery, onion, and carcasses. Boil some pasta or noodles and then add some pasta into each bowl for soup. I never add my pasta directly into the soup pot because the noodles soak up all the yummy broth.

*** Before adding the carcasses I save some chicken meat from one whole carcass to throw into the soup later. I add the meat after the soup is cooked almost fully. 

Both my boys love these soups in their own ways. Calvin likes only the carrots, chicken, broth and noodles, which I can get from either of these soups. Max doesn't like noodles but loves everything else. I guess he's more German than Italian! ;)

What are your favorite go-to soups? What do you make with your soup? Grilled cheese? Foccacia bread? Any other comfort meals you love to make? Please share!