Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Penne with Healthy, Meaty Marinara and Garlicky Parmesan Bread

If you've read my blog, you may have noticed that I cook a lot of different things.  My hubby is a good sport about all the experimenting, but sometimes I know he just longs for something simple, no surprises.

So tonight, I planned a classic dinner that I know he will love.  And he won't even know it's so good for him. 

Until I tell him two bites into our meal, because that kind of thing gets me excited.

This healthy marinara sauce is so easy to make you might stop buying the stuff that comes in cans and jars.  Just a few ingredients, and you've got a sauce full of flavor, plus you've got the satisfaction of knowing You Made It.

First, I cooked a pound of ground beef - with tasty seasonings like garlic powder, fennel seeds, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Mix up the ratios so it tastes and smells like you like it.

Then add a few cups of the marinara sauce.

I made whole-wheat penne which keeps its firm texture even if you tend to overcook pasta, as I do.

To finish the meal, I heated up some Italian-cut green beans (seasoned with onion powder, garlic powder nd pepper, of course).

And - piece de resistance - I broiled a couple pieces of my famous garlicky Parmesan bread.  Well, famous in our house, at least.

You spread butter on top of the bread, then sprinkle with garlic salt and Italian seasoning.  I like a lot of seasoning, obviously.

Important note.  For this to have any impact, the Parmesan must be real.  This is what real Parmesan looks like.  I didn't know until probably five years ago.  It doesn't smell great, and it's hard.

Shave a few lovely rounds off and put that treasure on top of your bread.

Broil for about three minutes.  I have come dangerously close to burning the edges every single time I've made this.  Listen for the bubbling, and when it gets wicked-sounding, move fast!

And that's it.  Simple yet so good.

My recipe for healthy marinara sauce came from Devin Alexander's awesome cookbook "The Most Decadent Diet Ever," by the way. If you're interested in preparing healthier meals that still taste wonderful, this is a cookbook you should invest in!  A few favorites of mine:  Greek Roasted Tilapia, Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Chicken Enchilasagna, and Better-than-Classic Stuffed Shells.

Healthy Marinara Sauce
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 28-oz. crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. sugar, plus extra if desired
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Place a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, onions and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not brown, 7 to 10 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Stir until well combined.  Turn the heat to low.  Cook, covered, at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

This makes a large pot!  If you don't plan on feeding a crowd, I'd suggest freezing your leftover sauce to pull out for a later feast.

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