Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but I’m a mom. And a grad student. And a few other things.

I am NOT an old Italian grandmother, or a professional chef, or the type of person who can spend hours carefully crafting a perfect tomato sauce. The last thing I spent hours on was… well, probably Pinterest. Whoops.

The point is, if I want a clean Italian meal, it has to be fast and easy. This sauce meets that criteria! Pair it with your pre-made Turkey-Veggie Meatballs and you can have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes easily. In fact, I really just call this Ten Minute Tomato Sauce for alliteration – it takes even less time to throw the ingredients together, or you can let it simmer for however long you have!

To keep this sauce simple, I rely on a few convenience items.IMG_5463 For those of you who are super strict clean-eaters, you may not like these additions – and, if you have the time to make your own ingredients from scratch, then by all means go ahead! But if you, like me, find yourself frantically staring at an empty stove around 5:30 every night, use the convenience items where appropriate. The ingredients here, though store-bought and obviously more processed, are still relatively clean options without lots of added ingredients or preservatives (there will be some in just about any store-bought item, but you can keep them to a minimum). And they cut prep time down from all day to just a few minutes. But, when possible, choose “no salt” or “low-sodium” options!

As you’ve probably realized by now, I don’t like chopping things. So I do a rough chop, and then use my immersion blender to do the rest of the work for me (the immersion blender is a kitchen must-have for me!). If you don’t have an immersion blender – BUY ONE! Seriously. And, while you’re waiting for it to ship, just chop the onion, celery and garlic more finely by hand.

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This is a fairly bright sauce, because I like the acidity of the tomatoes. If you’d prefer a more mellow sauce, use a heavier hand with the onion, celery and beef stock (the additional veggies will balance the additional liquid once blended, so you should have a similarly thick finished product).

We love this sauce with the Turkey-Veggie meatballs. Once you have everything puréed, you can toss them into the sauce straight from the freezer to heat! You could also add plain ground turkey or even white beans for an alternative protein boost (just make sure both are thoroughly cooked before adding to sauce). Serve with whole grain pasta, zuchinni noodles, or a mix of both! This sauce comes out thick, rich and delicious – no one will ever know that you didn’t spend all day slaving over it!

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Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped

1/2 c. celery, roughly chopped

1 t. olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 cans plain tomato sauce

1.5 c. beef stock

2 t. tomato paste

2 T. Italian seasoning blend (or mix your own)

2 t. honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Sweat the chopped onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes, or until they begin to soften. Crush garlic cloves with side of knife, and add to pot. Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, Italian seasoning, and honey, and stir ingredients well to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes (or longer, if you have the time). Then purée with immersion blender until vegetables and garlic are well chopped.

If adding meatballs or additional protein, add to puréed sauce, heat thoroughly and then serve.

IMG_5459Enjoy!

What’s your must-have kitchen item?

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Ten Minute Tomato Sauce

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs

IMG_5329Confession time: I don’t really like ground turkey very much. Most of my experiences with it have been dry, bland, and I find it very disappointing as a substitute for ground beef in things like chili or spaghetti sauce. But, in terms of a protein option, it’s lean, relatively inexpensive and very versatile – so I’m working on turkey recipes that will change my mind about it.

This one was a definite success! Not only do the vegetables significantly improve the nutritional value of these quick and easy meatballs, but they also lend moisture and flavor to the otherwise bland poultry. Instead of a traditional filler, I added flaxseed meal to bump up the fiber and omega-3 values, and I like the little bit of nuttiness it adds. Flaxseed meal is relatively easy to find, but if you don’t have it or don’t want to spend the money on it, then feel free to sub ground oats or whole wheat breadcrumbs! You can add up to a 1/2 cup of filler if you want sturdier meatball. Another bonus with this recipe is that the measurements here do NOT have to be exact! I gave you approximate measurement sizes, but if you have a little less/more of something, they will still turn out great.

I’m obsessed with my food processor, IMG_5333so it was an easy choice when it came to making these. I just roughly chop all my veggies (I had baby carrots today, so no need to chop those!) and give them a whirl until they are finely ground. I prefer to mix the veggie mixture and meat by hand, however, because I don’t like the texture if the meat is “extra” ground in the food processor. If you want to toss it in there and just mix everything in the food processor, it won’t hurt, but your final product will turn out differently.

Now these are not the most beautiful meatballs, so if you’re planning to enter some sort of food photography competition, choose a cake or something instead. Without much filler, they don’t roll smoothly and will flatten some in the oven, and the addition of the spinach turns them slightly green. However, if you’re looking for an easy, versatile staple that you can prep quickly and then keep in your freezer for later meals, they will do the trick. Plus, once doused in a yummy, rich tomato sauce, you can’t even tell what they look like!

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs

Makes approximately 2 dozen medium-sized meatballs

Ingredients

IMG_53311.25 pounds lean ground turkey (the leaner the better)

1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped (any color)

1/2 c. carrot, roughly chopped

1/2 c. celery, roughly chopped

1 c. spinach

2 cloves of garlic, peeled.

1/4 c. flaxseed meal

1 egg

2 T. seasoning of your choice (I love this mix from The Gracious Pantry, but you can use whatever you have on hand – Italian seasonings are also great in these)

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or grease lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.

Throw vegetables into the food processor, and process until finely ground (if you are using oats for filler, process them as well until they are a similar size). In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients using your hands – dig in and get everything well incorporated into the meat! Scoop out the meat into generous 2 tablespoon portions, and roll into balls. Bake at 375 for approximately 30 minutes, or until internal temperature of meatballs reaches at least 165 degrees.

Use immediately out of the oven, or cool and then place in a plastic bag, label and store in the freezer until needed.

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Cooling and ready to freeze!

 

Enjoy!

What are your feelings on ground turkey – delicious, or disgusting?

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs