One of my favorite dishes in the world has to be pasta with red sauce, more commonly known as marinara sauce. When I was little this was always my favorite food that my mom would make and I would beg for it anytime that I could get away with it. Today it still remains my favorite, probably because I have so many good memories of eating it when I was little.
In my family we call it red sauce, hailing to our Italian (and New Jersey-an) roots. For so long I lived in an illusion, thinking that everyone knew what red sauce was, but it turns out that people are confused unless you say marinara sauce. This came to a head when I was recently doing icebreaker activities in a group of people I was just meeting for the first time. Part of the activity was to say what your favorite food was, so naturally I said “Red Sauce.” I was met with looks of confusion because no one actually knows what that is… and just to make fun of me I was called “red sauce girl” for the rest of the day.
This is a bit of a twist on the original because I’ve added some chicken. The chicken just gives a little bit of protein and flavor to the dish, but the tomatoes still remain the star. You can make it just as easily while omitting the meat.
Pasta with Marinara Sauce & Chicken (Red Sauce with Chicken)
Serves: 6 Time: 1 hour
- 1 onion, yellow, white or red, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb chicken tenders
- 2 15 oz cans Muir Glen Tomato Sauce
- 1 28 oz can Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1-2 tbsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp oregano and 1 tsp sugar to taste
- your favorite pasta (spaghetti, rotini, penne, rigatoni..), about ¼ lb per person
- You can used about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, finely diced, instead of onion. Just be careful because garlic cooks very quickly and if it browns it will become bitter.
- You can use chicken breasts or thighs instead of chicken tenders
- If you don’t have tomato sauce, you can use 2 cans of crushed tomatoes instead. You could also use diced tomatoes (2 cans) instead, it will just change the texture slightly
- You can use Italian seasoning instead of (or with) the basil and oregano. Make sure you use your oregano sparingly because it is very strong!
Bring your large pot to medium heat and add your olive oil. Dice your onion and add to the oil. Let cook until soft, translucent and just starting to brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Move your onions to the edge of the pot and add in your chicken to the center. Let cook until white on one side, then flip over. The goal is not to cook it all the way through, just to get the outside cooked and sealed. Once the chicken is cooked on both sides make sure that you properly sterilize anything that touched the raw chicken.
Add the sauce and crushed tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer. Let cook for at least half an hour so that the chicken can cook all the way through. You don’t want the sauce to boil, just to gently bubble so that the chicken doesn’t get tough. Add your spices, make sure you taste it and adjust accordingly (note: if the sauce is very acidic you can add a pinch of sugar to help adjust it) .
Add water and a pinch of salt to your medium pot and bring to a boil. Add your pasta and cook al dente according to directions on the box. Strain pasta, add a bit of sauce and mix well. Serve with a piece of the chicken and more sauce on top! Enjoy!
Bonus: freeze your leftovers to enjoy for another day!