Monday, October 10, 2011

Crock Pot Marinara Sauce

I like it when I have the sense to plan ahead.  Today was not one of those days. 

Today was a day of trying to get dinner thrown together while a toddler tried to scale the pantry shelves and then while I was moving the breakable pantry items out of his reach, proceeded to jump down, run over and burn his hand on the side of the oven door.  Sweet. 
Today is a day I'd wished I planned ahead and made this meal.  Never mind that I already made it last week and we plowed through the leftovers.  As I was holding a teary kid's hand under cold running water, I was wishing for more Crock Pot Marinara, cozily waiting in the slow cooker instead of mashing together a semblance of a meal while trying to referee a one and five year old. 

The original recipe is for meatballs along with marinara.  Personally, I am appreciative that God created bags of Costco meatballs because it's one less step (my boys have discovered a deep love for those little orbs).  For those days that we are feeling slightly more ambitious, I've included the original meatball version.   

I'll be making this again tomorrow and freezing it in batches so I'll be more prepared next time. 

Crock Pot Marinara Sauce (and Meatballs)
 sauce makes enough to coat 1 1/2 pounds of pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup tomato paste (1 6-ounce can)
8 garlic cloves, minced (use a garlic press or food chopper to crank 'em out)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (or dried Oregano)
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

1. Cook Aromatics
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, and saute until onions begin to be translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, garlic cloves, Italian seasoning pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes more.

2. Make Sauce
Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker.  Add wine to pot with remaining onion mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to slow cooker.  Cook on low heat until sauce is thickened, 4-5 hours.  Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan.  Season with salt.  Serve over pasta.

Meatball Variation:
2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 large eggs
1 1/4 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Cook aromatics according to step 1 above.  Transfer half of onion mixture to a bowl.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, sausage, eggs, 3/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 2 cloves of garlic to bowl with onion mixture.  Mash with potato masher until smooth.  Add beef and cream to bowl and knead with hands until well combined.  Form mixture into twelve 2-inch meatballs.

Cook meatballs: Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes.  Nestle meatballs in slow cooker, discarding rendered fat.  Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours.  Skim fat.  Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan.  Season with salt.  Serve over pasta.

Make ahead: Raw meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated separately up to 24 hours in advance.  When ready to cook, add sauce to slow cooker and microwave meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker.  Continue with recipe as directed.   

Recipe Source: Cook's Country Magazine

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