Brrr it’s getting cold out there. It is 4pm and I am huddled up, with hot coffee. There is no more sunlight and it is pretty dark here in the living room. I know it happens every year but whhhhhyyyy?
To be honest, I actually prefer colder weather. I would rather be bundled up in sweaters and scarves instead of wearing shorts and still not being able to escape the heat. Especially if it’s humid. Yuck. I also love the quiet after snow falls and the fresh, clean smell of colder air. Plus, you don’t need an excuse to make comfort meals.
Such as this one.
I love homemade marinara sauce and I can’t remember the last time we purchased jarred. All you need is a big can of diced tomatoes, garlic, onion and a couple of seasonings. This is how I always prepare mine.
I realize there are various types of ingredients you could add but this taste great and all the other ingredients just seem like an unnecessary extra cost. However, now that I think of it… I have made this sauce before and it is also very good (and cheap).
I usually mash the sauce the best I can as the tomatoes slowly break down but I recently have had the chance to use an immersion blender. It makes a huge difference in the texture of the sauce. I have used my regular blender and even a food processor before but both can become slightly terrifying.
If you add a bay leaf to the sauce, not only do you have to remember to remove it after the sauce has finished but please, remove it before you use an immersion blender!! It is no fun to remember this after the fact and realize you have to pick out as many of the hard pieces as you can. Then tell your husband that you may have just ruined the sauce and to be careful while chewing. It’s like forgetting to pick out broken pieces of egg shells.
The longer the sauce is able to simmer the better. It will really allow the tomatoes to break down and the flavors to blend together. You could also buy crushed tomatoes if you want, but I always like diced or whole tomatoes.
After the sauce is the texture you like, add sausage to the sauce and simmer a little longer. Please do not blend the sausage with an immersion blender. I can’t imagine it is very delightful.
You know another reason why I like making homemade sauce? No? Oh. Well it’s because it makes the house smell amazing.
Go back often for taste testing (husbands are allowed). This is a required step.
(Hmmm. Not really sure how we made such a mess)
When you feel like the sauce mixture is almost done you can begin assembling the rest of the meal. Make sure the pot the pasta cooks in is large enough to mix everything together in the end.
We were in the pasta aisle contemplating which shape to use and finally settled on mini shells (actually, I think they were medium shells… oopsie). I’m sure any small/medium shaped pasta you decide to use will work just fine.
Mix it. Mix it reeeal good.
Have another taste test!
Freshly grated parmesan would be a nice addition on top but unfortunately, I did not have any.
Mini Shells with Sausage and Homemade Marinara
- Small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp italian seasonings (or dried herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1-1.5 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cups baby spinach, washed and large stems removed
- 1-1.5 lbs sausage links
- 1 box pasta shells
Add olive oil and garlic in medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium, add onions as soon as garlic begins to sizzle. Sauté until onions have softened, 5-7 minutes, stirring often.
Add diced tomatoes, bay leaf, italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a slow simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for atleast 35-40 minutes.
As the tomatoes cook, continue to mash with the back of a spoon or use an immersion blender (don’t forget to remove that bay leaf!)
Start the water for pasta. Meanwhile, Remove sausage from the casing and sauté in a skillet over medium heat. You do not need to add any oil. As the sausage cooks, use a wooden spoon to break into smaller pieces. Cook until browned all over. Approx. 7-8 minutes. Drain the sausage well and add it to the sauce. Continue to simmer until pasta is ready.
When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Add in the sauce mixture (add any extra seasonings if necessary) and spinach. Stir until everything is combined.
Keep leftover pasta in the refrigerator and use within two days.