A staple in the Indian cuisine is a sauce that is made by sautéing tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies. The spices used are usually salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin seeds and cumin powder. It is called as “Tadka” in Hindi. This sauce can be used to prepare meat, lentils and even vegetables. Variations can be made by adding milk, cream, coconut milk etc. depending upon what you are cooking. When I came to Canada, this is the only sauce I was familiar with. Luckily for me, I grew up with my mum cooking foods from different cuisines. So, I was truly multi-cultural when I arrived in Canada 15 years ago. Now, in India I had a lady who would come everyday and cook for me – what a luxury! That was totally missing in Canada. And cooking that sauce became a bit of a hassle with a full-time job, house hold chores and kids. I am sure lot of will be able to relate to this. Then began my hunt for something close to the “Tadka” and I came across a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that called for “Marinara Sauce”. Initially I did cook the marinara from scratch a few times. Later I found it on the grocery shelves and that was magic. I could use this magical sauce for all my Indian dishes because the ingredients used for both the sauces are quite similar. Now, I do cook the Indian “Tadka sauce” on occasion. So a staple in my pantry is the magical Marinara Sauce.
In this post, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes that use marinara sauce. You can use the bottled one and any brand or variety will work well.
- Lentil/ Bean Curry: Cook the lentils/beans as usual. I use my favorite kitchen appliance – the slow cooker to cook them and add Marinara Sauce when there is about an hour left for the cooking to complete. Adjust seasonings as per your taste. The seasonings I use are typically salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and some turmeric powder.
- Mixed greens – Spinach, Rappini, Swiss Chard: Take 1 bunch each of green, or your favorite with minced ginger and garlic. Blend with a hand blender and add marinara sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Add 1 cup of milk to get a creamier taste. Add some salt, chilli powder and cumin powder. If you would like you can also add leftover chicken or beef to this.
- Marinade for chicken, fish and shrimps: This is my favorite marinade: 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup yoghurt – 2% works well, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 green chillies (can omit if you do not like spicy food), tandoori masala (available in international section of most grocery stores), 1 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon any vegetable oil. Sometimes I add ½ cup of marinara sauce to this and reduce the yoghurt to ½ cup. It gives the meat a sweet and sour taste. Yum Yum.
- Cauliflower and pea vegetable: Add some oil in a wok. Add some cumin seeds and let them splutter. When they stop spluttering add the cauliflower and peas. Stir fry for 5 minutes and cover for about 10 minutes. The vegetables should now be soft. Add some marinara sauce (maybe 2 tbsp), salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin powder. Cook for another 5 minutes and you are done.
- Pea Potato Curry: You can make this in either a slow cooker or in a wok. Add the pea, potatoes, marinara sauce, water and seasonings all together. Cook accordingly: wok – probably 30 minutes and slow cooker – on a 5 hour settings.
- Lasagna: Use Marinara Sauce as your tomato sauce for the layering.
- Gravy for Butter Chicken: Mix 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 can V8, 1 can diced tomatoes and ¾ tin of tomato paste. Cook everything on medium heat until everything is well mixed. Add 1 cup whipped yoghurt to this mix. Add the cooked roasted chicken (use recipe no: 3) and cook for another 15 minutes or until you don’t see the water separately. Finish off by adjusting the seasonings – salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and a bit if garam masala. At the very end add the juice of 1 lemon. Sometimes I like to add diced green peppers.
- Roasted Eggplant and peas: Sounds like an odd combination! Trust me. Try this. You will need the whole large eggplant for this. Roast the eggplant in your mini oven or whichever oven you have. You may want to put one cut on the top to avoid any explosions (I have had that). It will take at least 45 minutes. Be extremely careful when you take it out from the oven. Now chop the head off and remove the skin. It should peel off very easily. In a heavy bottom pan add a bit of oil and add the roasted eggplant and garlic. Mash it nicely. Now add 2 cups of marinara sauce, mix well and cover. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Now add 1 cup peas. Cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. The mixture will be a little thick and there should be no separation. Add seasonings: salt, chilli powder. You can enjoy this with pita or even rice. It makes a deadly combination with yoghurt.
- As Pizza sauce: In my house we use marinara sauce as the pizza sauce. Give it a try.
- Macaroni/pasta with meat balls: Substitute pasta sauce with marinara sauce.
- Tomato soup, minestrone soup: Add some marinara sauce into your tomato based soups.
- Grilled cheese and marinara sauce: Have some warm marinara sauce with your grilled cheese sandwich. Bonus: you can count it as your vegetable serving.
- Scrambled eggs, marinara and salsa: Mix some marinara with salsa when having scrambled eggs.
- Egg Curry: pesto, chilli garlic sauce, coconut oil, boiled eggs, salt, red chilli pepper, cumin powder, cilantro/fenugreek/parsley
Some articles that you may be interested in:
Marinara Sauce from scratch: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/marinara_sauce.aspx
Indian Tadka from scratch: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/Recipe/Onion-Tomato-Masala-KhaanaKhazana.html
An artcile on the use of sauces: http://www.cooksmarts.com/cooking-lessons/creating-flavor/sauces/