Not too long ago I posted about my problems sleeping, I’ve been dealing with insomnia on and off for years, and its been full on recently. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a really difficult time functioning on anything less than 6 hours of a sleep, yet I was going weeks at a time on even less. Well I’m pleased to report that for the past two weeks, I’ve been sleeping solidly through the night.
Once I started to sleep soundly I was hoping I could switch to morning workouts. Unfortunately that has taken a little longer than planned, mostly because I haven’t been able to get up before 7 a.m., but that’s okay. I think I had such a huge sleep debt that my body has been relishing in the extra rest. Today for the first time in weeks, I woke up naturally at 6 a.m. My first thought was to head to the gym, but I was a little groggy and not quite there mentally so I decided to take my time getting ready for work. It may not seem like much, but that’s progress people. By weeks end I’ll be running miles in the morning!
You’re probably wondering why its such a big deal for me to workout in the morning, I mean my current workout schedule has worked for years. Still I’d much prefer to have my evenings free, to cook, to clean, to hang out with Mr. Chubby. But mostly to cook, to cook the types of meals I do on the weekend. Like last night. Last night I tackled something that I’ve been dying to try for ages – fresh tomato marinara sauce.
In my mind it always seemed so difficult – tomato sauce from scratch. Where do you even begin? I guess first with tons and tons of fresh tomatoes. Ours were courtesy of Jeff’s dad who’s been growing them all summer. After trolling the internet, I found this great how-to recipe on Smitten Kitchen.
I started by making small x’s in the bottom of each tomato.
Next you blanche them for about 30 seconds in a pot of boiling water.
Now comes the peeling. The x’s I cut in the bottoms made the skins slide right off.
Next step is to de-seed them. This is the most difficult part. First you cut them in half. Then you scoop/squeeze the seeds out into a strainer.
Save the juices for your sauce.
Now that all that’s complete you can really get started on the sauce. I chopped some veggies for my base including onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Sauteed all of this in really good olive oil for about 10 minutes and then I added my peeled and de-seeded tomatoes and the reserved tomato juice.
While cooking season with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Allow to simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes.
Now as you can expect, I had a recipe in mind for this sauce. I originally planned to make a lasagna, but then I stumbled upon Giada’s recipe for Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables. I couldn’t resist. So while my sauce simmered I got cracking. I made some minor modifications adjusting the vegetables according to what was available, and it came out wonderfully.
I topped mine with a little more of the fresh marinara, but it would have been just as good plain.
Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis
- 2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
- 2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 10 oz baby portobella mushrooms, halved
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
- 1 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, squash, mushrooms and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Gently mix until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
4 pounds tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
1/2 medium carrot
1 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. If one gives you trouble, toss it back in the boiling water for another 10 seconds until the skin loosens up. Discard the skins.
If using plum tomatoes, halve each lengthwise. If using beefsteak or another round variety, quarter them. Squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. Either coarsely chop you tomatoes on a cutting board or use a potato masher to do so in your pot, as you cook them in a bit.
Heat your olive oil in a large pot over meduim. Cook your onions, carrots, celery and garlic, if you’re using them, until they just start to take on a little color, about 10 minutes.
Add your tomatoes and bring to a simmer, lowering the heat to medium-low to keep it at a gentle simmer. If you haven’t chopped them yet, use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes as you cook them. Simmer your sauce, stirring occasionally.
If the sauce is thicker than you want it to be, add back the reserved tomato juice as need. If the sauce is too lumpy , use an immersion blender to break it down to your desired texture. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and more to taste.