Thrifty And Lovely Bacon and Tomato Sauce
Thriftier Than Ready-Meals, Saner Than Home-Cooking Every Day
For several months now I have set aside time each week to cook one Big Production and then freeze the leftovers to bring on as Encores once a week for the next month. Well, My Cook, Eat, Save Repeat strategy seems to be paying off – mainly because it stops me sending out for take-away or buying ready-made when life is too busy or I am too tired of cooking. Sometimes though, life gets a little too crazy and I can’t find even enough time for that one weekly cook-in to keep my freezer stocked. This week, dear readers, has been one of those times.
Which is one of the four reasons I love this Bacon and Tomato Sauce so much, because it takes less than five minutes hands-on-time to make a big potful. The other three reasons are that it is delicious & nutritious, versatile, and very thrifty. A shop-bought jar of pasta sauce is going to beat it (just) on cost but it won’t touch it on taste and nutrition. Try it for yourself and see. Here’s how.
Thrifty And Lovely Bacon And Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- 750g of bacon pieces
- one 750g bag of frozen chopped onions
- one 750g bag of frozen chopped peppers
- 6 cans of budget chopped tomatoes
- a few inches of pureed garlic from a tube – adjust to your own personal taste
- oregano – dried is good, fresh if you happen to have it in your garden, is even gooder
- vegetable oil – f you splash out on olive, mix it with another vegetable oil to raise the smoking point
The Big Production: How To Make Your Bacon And Tomato Sauce
- Take a good-sized pan and put a generous slick of vegetable oil across the bottom, topped with the bacon pieces. Put over a medium heat and leave to do its thing for five minutes. Bacon pieces are what manufacturers have left over after they turn a side of bacon into rashers. Because they would otherwise be thrown away, they are cheaper than rashers. They are chunky and irregular, which, in my opinion, is a bonus when it comes to adding a little meaty texture to a vegetable sauce. They also don”t require you to spend time separating them out and carefully cutting them up. A bonus bonus!
- When the bacon has begun to sizzle gently, tip in the frozen onions and peppers. Stir through. Leave over the same medium heat for another five minutes, checking now and again that it is not sticking. If it sticks, add more oil. (The bacon will slowly give up some fat as it starts to heat and the amount of additional oil you will need is going to vary each time you make it because the amount of fat in your bacon varies.)
- When the frozen veg has heated up and is sweating gently in a bath of its own juices add the garlic to your own taste, 45ml dried oregano or 90ml fresh, and a generous grinding of black pepper. DO NOT ADD SALT. The bacon will probably be enough. Stir through and add the tinned chopped tomatoes. Turn the heat down to low, stick on a lid and forget about it for an hour. It will gradually come to a gentle simmer and all the ingredients will cosy up to one another.
- Taste your sauce and add more garlic/oregano/a pinch of sugar to your taste.
What To Do With Your Sauce: Bring On The Encores
That’s all there is to it. When it is completely cool decant it into freezer bags and freeze flat on their sides. This will mean that the coldest part of your frozen sauce is never more than 2cm from the surface so in an emergency it will defrost very fast. You know, one of those tomato sauce emergencies you hear about on the news… Anyway, here are the Encores.
- reheat the sauce with a bag of frozen prawns, a pinch of chilli flakes and a handful of chopped fennel leaves in a frying pan; stir in cooked gnocchi and top with thinly sliced cheese; pop under the grill to melt the cheese then eat.
- mix 15ml of sweet paprika with a little oil and add to the sauce, along with two cans of chickpeas, a few chunks of frozen spinach and 10ml dried oregano. Heat through and serve with rice, topped with greek yoghurt. The longer you can leave this to simmer, the more the chickpeas will take up the flavours in the sauce.
- Toss with two cans of tuna and use as the ‘meat’ layer of a lasagne, topping with white sauce and grated cheese as usual. Or use the tuna and sauce mix to top spaghetti as a kind of student-food-of-my-youth tuna bolognese.
- In a serious emergency, pop a frozen block of sauce in a pan with chilli powder to your taste and two cans of kidney beans while your throw some pitta bread in the toaster. Layer up your hastily heated chilli bean mix with grated cheddar in soup bowls and serve with the toasted pitta to scoop out the spicy, savoury, gooey beans. In my experience it’s best to do this in an empty room or only in the company of people you know really well… Alternatively pop the lot in an oven proof dish and top with a pack of tortilla chips and more grated cheese. Grill for just long enough to melt the cheese then serve.
- If you have absolutely no time at all, reheat the sauce with a mug of water, half a stock cube and a splash of single cream and then puree with a stick blender to make an excellent tomato soup to go with fresh bread, butter and cheese. Some basil leaves would make it even better, if you have them.