There are a few things I simply refuse to buy because they are so much better and cheaper made myself in almost no time. I don't buy any sort of pre-peeled or pre-minced garlic. Not only does this exposure to air and jarring process make the garlic not taste as good, but then I would miss out on the garlic smell on my hands which I admittedly LOVE, even after the meal is finished. It lingers like such a sweet memory.
I will not buy salad dressing. You would be amazed at the amazing flavors you can concoct in just minutes with the most basic and cheap ingredients. (My favorite of late is a curry mustard vinaigrette, but I digress...)
I will not buy pasta sauce. Let me expound on this a bit, if I may.
I never ever ever (except for by accident on very rare occasions!) let myself run out of fresh onions, fresh garlic, and canned tomatoes of some sort. With these three staples, you will never be sauceless. How long does it take to make, you ask? Barely a flash. Here's how:
In a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, pour in enough olive oil to just coat the bottom. (I usually use about 2 teaspoons). Finely mince or crush several cloves of garlic, depending on how strong you like your garlic flavor. I LOVE GARLIC, so I usually use 3 large or 4 medium cloves and I like to mince them very finely since the smaller the mince, the stronger the flavor. (More surface area if you're a geek like me that likes to know why). Try not to let the garlic brown too much, as this will make it bitter. The trick is to constantly stir it around. Add in crushed red pepper flakes to taste almost immediately. You're ready to pour in a large can (15oz) of tomatoes as soon as you smell the heat from the red pepper. If you are doing this, you'll definitely know what I mean. It tingles. Once you've dumped them in, turn your sauce down to medium-low heat and give it a good stir. If you used whole canned tomatoes, now is the time to smash them. If you used crushed, diced, or pureed, you can just walk away.
Let the sauce come up to a simmer and add in any herbs you wish. Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, savory, a bay leaf, etc. I like to use Italian seasoning, one bay leaf, and a little extra basil. I usually use tomatoes with salt already added, so I don't add any additional salt. You're sauce is ready when you're happy with the seasoning. Use it as a pizza sauce or a pasta sauce. Dilute it with chicken stock for a great minestrone soup base. Try it, and let me know if I've converted you into an ex-commercial-pasta-sauce-consumer.
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-The Redhead in the Kitchen