If you’re fed up with getting home from work and staring into the fridge hoping that a delicious, nutritious meal will just jump out and prepare itself shouting “eat me!”, well this is the sauce for you! Ditch the last resort pizza or fish finger sandwich and feel super smug with a bit of easy meal prep. Recently I started scheduling in a couple of hours of meal prep at the beginning of the week to avoid that disappointing task of starting a freshly prepared meal at 19:00 after just getting in from a full day’s work. This might sound strange coming from someone who spends a lot of working time cooking, but most of my time is spent organising events and cooking for other people!
I’m not someone that can eat the same meal three days on the trot, so that’s when I came up with the idea of a multi-functional sauce! A super tasty base that will jump out of the fridge or freezer for you, all you have to do it throw in a few extra ingredients to change it up or serve with a different accompaniment. Quick veg packed pasta, posh baked beans, rich risotto… all from one tasty sauce. Trust me, investing a couple of hours of meal prep is sooo worth it. Save yourself the stress and enjoy the smugness (and your evening meal).
Veg Packed Smug Sauce:
2 large red peppers
2 medium onions
2 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 big handfuls of spinach
Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Wash and chop the peppers into chunks, roughly 1 inch square. Discard the seeds and stalk. Put into an oven tray and toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast for 20 minutes, then give them a stir. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until soft and starting to brown on the edges.
Whilst the peppers cook, get the sauce going. Peel and dice the onions, add to a large, deep pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat. Sweat for 10 minutes until softening. Wash and dice the celery, carrots and courgettes. Peel the garlic and chop or crush. Add the prepared veg to the pan of onions along with the oregano. Cook for another 10 minutes stirring regularly to avoid browning.
Add the tinned tomatoes and puree, then just swill out each tin with a splash of water and add to the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the veg is soft. Wash the spinach and add to the pan with the roasted peppers and a good pinch with salt and pepper. Give it a quick whiz with a hand blender and taste to check the seasoning.
When cool, divide into meal sized batches and freeze for up to two months.
If possible, organic veg is best. If you’re on a budget, prioritise getting organic leafy greens and veg with a high-water content. Check out the ‘dirty dozen’ list for more info!
Spruce up your sauce!
Stir through pasta for a quick tasty meal. Try using brown rice pasta for a healthier option. You could add minced beef for the meat eaters to make a quick bolognaise.
Add a tsp of cumin, sprinkle of chilli flakes, half a pack of crumbled feta and a tin of butter beans for some posh, Greek style baked beans. Great in a baked potato or with some toast.
Let it down with some veg stock for a quick soup. You could add some macaroni for a minestrone. Try with a dollop of natural yoghurt.
Stir through a basic risotto and top with parmesan for a creamy, tomato Italian style dinner.
Try leaving the sauce chunky rather than whizzing it. Add a tsp of ground cumin and ras el hanout if you can find it (the have it in Waitrose), a tin of drained chick peas and serve with rice/quinoa/couscous and fried halloumi or a fragrant Moroccan dish. Sprinkle over a bit of fresh coriander if you have it.