A number of years ago when I first started to develop a passion for cooking, I watched Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals practically everyday. I found her enthusiasm and perkiness infectious. 🙂 Although I rarely followed her recipes exactly (yes, I had that habit even before I really knew what I was doing; hence the many failed experiments), I found most her her ideas to be tasty and non-intimidating. As I got more confident in the kitchen, I started to branch out and try more complicated recipes, but I still use Rachel Ray’s recipes, often as a starting point before adding my own touches. Afterall, as the self-proclaimed “Queen of Burgers”, she really did teach me how to make a variety of homemade burgers!
One of my favourite recipes from her cookbooks is the “Spaghetti alla Ceci”. It’s a tomato-based pasta sauce that is easy and healthy and super tasty! It is thickened with finely chopped chickpeas and has the texture of a bolognese sauce, but is much healthier. Love it.
So the other day I set about to make this sauce, but unfortunately, we were out of chickpeas. So I used white kidney beans instead. And then I decided to change up the recipe a bit just for fun, and tweaked it to suit my taste buds for that day. My mom likes tomato-based pasta sauces, but often finds them too acidic for her sensitive stomach. I often add a bit of sugar to the sauce to balance out the acidity a bit. But on this day, I had a different idea. I wondered how it would taste if I added some grated yam for sweetness. Turns out, it was a delicious idea! 🙂 I think it’s now my favourite marinara sauce!
Saucy’s Favourite Marinara Sauce (inspired by Rachel Ray’s Spaghetti alla Ceci)
- 1/2 can of white kidney beans (1 C), rinsed and drained well (can also use chickpeas)
- 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (this gives just a hint of spiciness; use more if you like more of a kick)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 C grated yam
- 2 bell peppers, diced (I used 1 red and 1 orange pepper)
- 1 can crushed tomato (14 oz)
- 1 C low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 C water
- optional: 2 TB nutritional yeast flakes
Place beans in food processor and give it a whir or two until the beans are finely chopped.
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and let them infuse the oil for about a minute. Then add diced onion and garlic. Stir around and let them sweat for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir around for another 30 sec.
Now dump in the chopped beans, grated yam, and diced peppers. Stir it around to combine with the other ingredients. Next, add in tomato, broth, and water. Give it a good stir, cover, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. After 20 minutes or so, turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast, if using.
This sauce was thick and hearty in texture from the beans. The grated yams and bell peppers provided a touch of sweetness to balance the rich tomato flavour. And there was a just a hint of a kick from the red pepper flakes. It was saucy goodness! And it was super easy to make.
We served it over whole wheat spaghetti, with steamed broccoli and mild turkey Italian sausage:
Thanks for the inspiration, Rachel Ray! 🙂