When the best meals require no recipes

I was lucky enough to receive a delivery last week from a friend who is working with Mutti Tomatoes, which has been operating as a family run business out of Italy for over 100 years. Canned tomatoes are a staple in most pantries and for me, are used on a pretty much weekly basis for Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. It’s one of the those meals I can make without a recipe and is the ultimate comfort food. I generally start with the same base: Sautéing a mix of vegetables and olive olive oil in a pot (I use chopped onions, carrots, celery and garlic). I add in ground beef, brown with vegetables and then add a can of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and a couple squirts of tomato paste. From there I’ll add my spices (oregano, bay leaves, s&p, a dash of red pepper flakes, and a squirt of honey). I found the Mutti tomatoes didn’t need as much seasoning as others. Depending on what’s in the fridge I’ll add chopped olives or other odds and ends. I bring to a simmer and then add about 1/2 cup of chicken broth and sometimes 1/4 cup of red wine if I happen to be drinking a glass while cooking. I let the whole thing simmer for at least 30 minutes and then serve over my favorite pasta. I made enough sauce this time to pack up in a care package to bring to my friend with a newborn baby. Another plus is the sauce gets better as it sits and freezes well.

Homemade Spaghetti and Meat Sauce makes a perfect new baby gift basket!

The pizza sauce from Mutti inspired me to host a very impromptu make your own pizza party. We were just coming back from traveling for Thanksgiving and invited a few families over on a very rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon. We picked up fresh dough from a local Italian bakery along with fresh mozzarella, olives, fresh pesto, marinated artichokes, and anchovies. I divided the dough in half and let the kids and families pair up to roll out the dough and add their favorite toppings. I baked all the pizzas in cake pans which kept them pretty well intact and easy to serve. Everyone had a blast and I think the pizzas turned out great!

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