Cooking 101: Simple Tomato Sauce

We’re all settled in Norway! It’s been a whirlwind so far and I still can’t believe we got this opportunity. One thing I was warned about that turned out to be true: Norway is expensive! There is 25% sales tax on quite a few things that are considered “entertainment” here, particularly restaurants. We like to treat ourselves sometimes and go out for dinner and drinks, but on most weeknights I’ve been cooking and we stay in. The groceries aren’t a ton cheaper (Kraft mac and cheese is $6 USD a box here!) but we’ve learned to stock up on some staples and eat for a few days off one grocery trip.

I’ve had to get back to the basics. Spices are expensive here (and usually in another language that I have to Google before shopping) so we stick to a few simple recipes that don’t require too many ingredients. One recipe I’ve been glad to have in my brain is for tomato sauce. You can make it as basic or as complicated as you want it to be, but the basic version requires very few ingredients and you can use it for so many things besides pasta! I’m sharing my basic tomato sauce recipe and then a few ideas for jazzing it up if you have access to a grocery store that doesn’t charge you your first born for certain types of cheese.

Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons minced basil – about 3 large leaves
1/2 yellow onion – diced
28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper to your liking

Start with sauteing the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat.

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Add in your chopped tomatoes and spices and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Add in your fresh basil and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened a bit.

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I usually let mine go for 30 minutes to a full hour. Once it’s cooked through, I use an immersion blender to get rid of most of the big chunks, but that’s completely optional!

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Variations:

Add 1/4 cup red wine and 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce for a rich flavor.
Add 1/4 cup each of parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella for a 3-cheese tomato sauce.
Blend it smooth and add 1/2 cup of cream for a creamy tomato sauce.
Toss in goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach for some extra veggies in your life.

A few of my favorite things to make with tomato sauce:

Meatball Sandwiches
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Chicken Parmesan
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Cabernet Marinara with Mushrooms
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What is your go-to when you’re jazzing up your tomato sauce?

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Homemade Queso

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I made the mistake of thinking that life would be uneventful after our wedding. Boy was I wrong! Ben accepted an offer on a new job, which means we’ll be moving about an hour away to just outside of Pittsburgh. We promised ourselves that our next move would be into a house, so that process has begun and we’ve got our fingers crossed on a cute 1970’s two story that we’d love to make our own! Along with accepting the new job, Ben was also asked to travel and work from Norway for two months this summer. Better yet, I get to go with! We’ll be jetting off to Europe to try and see as many sights as we can in the 8 weeks we’re there while the dogs enjoy a summer vacation with the grandparents! So no, life hasn’t calmed down one bit and I could not be happier about it ;)

On to the FOOD! I made this Homemade Queso during football season and it was one of our favorites! We make it pretty often with Velveeta and Hormel chili, but I started making this one because somehow I always have more real cheese in my fridge than I do the processed stuff (blame it on my mac & cheese obsession, of course)!

It’s basically the same process as making a cheese sauce like you would for mac and cheese, but to keep it a little smoother and less rich, you use chicken broth. You can tweak this recipe to be as mild or as spicy as you like. We like it very spicy, but you could omit the chipotle all together and just have a classic queso :)

Homemade Queso

1 lb. pork sausage
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 small yellow onion – diced
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese
2 chipotle peppers – diced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce (the sauce that the chipotles come in)
1 cup frozen corn
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small dutch oven or skillet, add your olive oil, pork sausage, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and onion and cook on medium until the pork is cooked through and the onions have softened. Add in your minced garlic and cook for a minute more.

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Remove the pork from the pot, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add your 2 tablespoons butter and melt. Stir in your flour and keep stirring until it’s a bubbly paste (your roux). Just before it starts to brown, turn your heat up to medium-high and pour in your milk and chicken broth.

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Keep it on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens – about 5 minutes. Once it’s thick enough to coat your spoon or whisk. See the difference between the photo above?

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Add in your shredded cheese.

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After it has melted, stir in your chipotle peppers and adobo sauce.

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While it’s still hot, add in your cooked sausage and frozen corn.

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Stir it up and bring it all back up to a slight simmer.

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Once the corn is heated through, you’re ready to start dipping!

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Special thanks to the hubby for his hand modeling skills!

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Oven Baked Fries with Rosemary & Parmesan

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Wooo boy life can get busy sometimes! Spring is in the air here in Morgantown and everyone around me has been trying to stay busy, including myself! I started going to a barre class here with my friend Jenna and it has been great. I’m new to the whole workout class thing so I’ve had a few awkward moments, but that’s what makes it fun sometimes! The only downside to keeping busy and being outside is that I haven’t been inside the kitchen enough lately. Don’t worry though, I’m back and I’m hungry!

I made these fries basically just because I wanted to test the boil-then-bake method I saw over on My Man’s Belly. She said the true trick for oven baked fries is to boil them for a few minutes before baking. I gave it a shot and although I suggest cooking them a bit longer, it definitely did the trick! Plus, who can say no to fries baked with cheese and herbs. Not I!

Oven Baked Fries Recipe

*Feeds 2
2-3 russet potatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for boiling
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove – minced

Click for the step by step recipe!

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