One of the moms from my book club recently had twins. Between recovering from giving birth, taking care of two newborns, tending to her older daughter and oh yeah, don’t forget her husband and the house, I know it’s been an exhausting and overwhelming few weeks…and it’s just starting!
To help our mommy pal out our book club organized a meal train. I had never heard of a meal train before, but I love its purpose.
A meal train is organized meal giving. For example if someone is ill, elderly or has a new baby (or two!), caring friends, family, co-workers, neighbors or pretty much anyone who wants to show their excitement or compassion prepares and brings a meal to the family in need on an assigned day. These are “drop off” ready meals – ones that the family can either pop in the oven to reheat or just stick in a fork in and start eating.
Taking into consideration my friend’s family dietary restrictions/preferences, I settled on making a spinach lasagna since I know it can freeze well if they decide they don’t want to eat it that day. It’s also easy to prepare so I could double up on ingredients and stash a lasagna in my own freezer for a tasty homemade meal to reheat in less than an hour on a crazy weeknight.
I think the secret to making a great pasta meal — whether its spaghetti, lasagna or ravioli — is that is has to have a great sauce. Being Italian I’ll admit that I’m pretty good at making #SundaySauce. It’s so good that it’s been known to be called “perfect” by my close friends and family.
For me, my sauce starts with what I call the holy trinity of aromatics – onion, celery and carrots – otherwise known as a mirepoix. These give the sauce a great hearty flavor base.
It’s also important to use good quality canned tomatoes. I use Tuttorosso — they make all different varieties including crushed, peeled plum, paste, diced and puree. I like to use either peeled plum or crushed tomatoes – I like the texture it helps to give the sauce.
So here’s how I did it:
The Harried Mom’s “Perfect” Sunday Sauce
Makes 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes, mostly to chop the veggies
Cook Time: a little over an hour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons Tuttorosso Tomato Paste
1 (35 oz) can of Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes
1 ½ tablespoons Italian spice mix (dried parsley, oregano, thyme, basil & bay leaf)
Salt & Pepper
- In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame.
- Once oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and celery until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables start to get soft, about 10 minutes.
- Salt & pepper the vegetables and add in garlic. Saute for about one minute, do not brown the garlic.
- Add in the tomato paste and saute for about a minute.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and Italian spice mix and simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste (if needed).
Cheesy Spinach Lasagna
Makes 8 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
24 oz of pre-washed baby spinach
1 (1-pound) package no boil lasagna noodles (I like to use the ones with ridges)
1 (32-ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon Italian spice mix (dried parsley, oregano, thyme, basil & bay leaf)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & Pepper
4 cups The Harried Mom’s “Perfect” Sunday Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and add onions until onions are tender.
- Add in spinach and nutmeg and saute until wilted.
- Drain excess liquid from the spinach and onion mixture and cool.
- In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, Italian spice mix, eggs and salt and pepper and mix.
- Add in cooled spinach and onion mixture.
- In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread 1 cup pasta sauce and lay down lasagna noodles on top.
- Spread 1/3 of the cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Sprinkle 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese on top.
- Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over cheese.
- Repeat layering 2 more times.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Uncover and bake for an extra 15 minutes until hot and bubbly.
- Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Want to find out more about Tuttorosso and get some inspiration for your own #SundaySauce recipe? Connect with them on Facebook and while you’re there you can enter their “Celebrate the Sauce” giveaway which runs thru December 10. Everyone who enters will have a chance to win some fun weekly prizes as well as a grand prize of one Martha Stewart Collection Copper Accent 12 Piece Cookware Set.
Now it’s your turn to share. Have you ever taken part in a meal train? What’s your go-to meal to make for others?
For Full Disclosure: The Harried Mom was not compensated for this post. I did receive a Tuttorosso gift pack to create my recipe and this post. As always, the opinions expressed in this post and on The Harried Mom blog are all my very own and are not influenced in any way. Please do your own research before purchasing any products as your opinion may differ.
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