Thursday, January 14, 2010

Healthiest, Kid-Friendliest Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce brings just a bit of sunny flavour into dark winter days. I find that I crave it more this time of year, which is odd because tomatoes are not in season for 8 more months here in England. But, tinned tomatoes are always available, and surprisingly, even healthier (yes, healthier) than fresh. 

For some reason, all the good, healthy stuff in tomatoes are more easily accessible to our bodies once they have been cooked or processed (as in tinned or canned tomatoes). They are rich in  Lycopene. Lycopene has been proven to reduce the chance of all sorts of cancers. Harvard researchers found that men who ate seven slices of pizza each week reduced their chances of getting prostate cancer by 45%! Lycopene has also been proven to reduce wrinkles. No wonder Italians are all so beautiful.

Tomato puree/paste is heaving with lycopene, plus it will add depth and richness to the sauce. The carrot boosts the beta carotene (also an antioxidant), but also lends a faint sweetness. Puree the sauce before serving and your kids will never know there is carrot in it. This is a very plain sauce, perfect for picky eaters, but with the addition of a few other ingredients (olive, capers, anchovy to make a Puttanesca, or cooked beef for a simple Bolognese, even cooked sausages) it can be interesting enough for company.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 plump garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 small onion, diced
2 large carrot, peeled and shredded
3 (400 grams) tins tomatoes with their juice
2 tablespoons tomato puree (‘paste’ in the States)
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
dried oregano and/or fresh basil (optional)

Set a large pot over medium heat, pour in the oil and add in the chopped garlic and onion. Cook gently until the onion is soft and the garlic is just golden (not brown). Immediately add in the carrot and continue to sauté for a minute or two more. Now pour in the tomatoes and squirt in the tomato puree/paste. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste, add in the salt, taste again then puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Serve as is, or add in dry and fresh herbs—depending on whether your children will accept green bits in their sauce.

Makes sauce for 1 pound (dry weight) of pasta. Will keep perfectly in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for 3 months. 

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