LUCY BURDETTE: Finding a decent lower sodium red pasta sauce is harder than you might think. In the past, I've used Classico red pepper sauce when a shortcut was needed for an Italian dish. But the sodium count in that sauce is higher than I should be eating. I tried a few low or no salt sauces and found them lacking in taste. Honestly? They were terrible. So what's a girl to do? Make her own, in a big batch, in order to freeze some for the future. And keep in mind, you can adjust ingredients as you prefer.
Ingredients for the sauce
Three large cans diced tomatoes in juice, no salt added
One large can crushed tomatoes in sauce
Two large onions
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon or more hot red pepper flakes
Two bay leaves
1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
1/2 cup red wine
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
One can tomato paste
Grind the carrots in your food processor, followed by the onions and garlic. Sauté all this in a large pot with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the vegetables are soft, add the tomato products, plus oregano hot pepper flakes, bay leaves, and red wine.
Once that mixture has simmered for 15 minutes, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar depending on your taste, and the chopped parsley and basil.
Simmer the sauce for 1 to 2 hours. I used some of it for spaghetti and meatballs, and saved the rest for a giant pan of stuffed shells.
Here's my recipe for low-sodium meatballs:
1 1/4 pound organic ground beef
Three squares of low sodium cornbread (I had some in my freezer, made using my regular cornbread recipe, only replacing no sodium baking powder for the regular baking powder, and cutting the salt)
1 teaspoon lower sodium Worcestershire sauce (I like the Annie's organic brand, 75 mg per teaspoon)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
One large garlic clove, crushed
Crumble the cornbread. Mix all the ingredients together, taking care to distribute everything so you don't leave little packets of garlic or spices. In a 350 oven, bake the meatballs until browned, about half an hour. I did mine on a cookie tray lined with parchment, so the cleanup was very easy. Turn the meatballs halfway through so both sides brown.
Mix the cooked meatballs with the sauce and serve with a little fresh grated Parmesan. (I'm sorry to say that we ate this dinner before I remembered to take a photo:).
All the tomato products added up to about 1500 mg of sodium, and there are probably 15 servings in the pot. Compare that to the sauce I formerly used, Classico spicy red pepper, 310 mg for half a cup. 1500 for the jar, which serves five.
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