Kitchen Adventures: Just Call me Giada

Another Friday, another Kitchen Adventure to share!

I’m in Jersey City for the day, and it’s dreary as can be.

Rain rain go away!

Rain rain go away!

But let’s not small talk about the weather – let’s talk homemade marinara sauce instead.

I had always believed that only the true Italians could accomplish the delicious flavor profiles of homemade marinara sauce. I had thought that Prego and Ragu was for semi-homemade, cooking-challenged Sometimes Healthy girls like myself.

But, as I mentioned last week, my new REAL kitchen has spurred me to go places this city-living girl had never dreamed of a year ago.

Now that's amore!

Now that’s amore!

On Tuesday, I put myself in the “Giada” mind frame and cooked up my first ever homemade marinara sauce. Here’s how it all went down.

Added Pressure

Another thing that has kept me away from marinara sauce thus far is that the BF is from New Jersey and thus quite picky about his Italian food – apparently NJ is where you go to to get the quality Italian food. In Nebraska, where I’m from, I considered quality Italian food to be Olive Garden, Fazolis and a place called Spaghetti Works.

Now, that's Italian?

Now, that’s Italian?

Enough said.

So, when I looked to create the perfect marinara, I knew where to go first: Giada De Laurentiis.

Dear Giada - You can do no wrong.

Dear Giada – You can do no wrong.

Giada is the queen of relatable Italian cuisine, and I feel like she can get away with anything and come out looking cute and adorable. Other celebrity chefs like Rachael Rae and Sandra Lee, tend to get on people’s nerves…but not Giada. Nope, everything she does is just perfection.

So anyway, I researched a few recipes, using Giada’s recipe as my base and adjusting accordingly, based on my taste buds and what I had in the pantry.

The result was a thick, flavorful and authentic-tasting marinara sauce that tasted good on its own and even better on top of pasta and spaghetti squash.

Sometimes Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutesP1010116

Cook TIme: 60 minutes

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 (32 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks finely, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • kosher salt, pepper and dry basil/oregano to taste
  • Optional: diced chicken
  1. In a large pot, heat oil on medium-high; add mushrooms and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add carrots, celery, kosher salt and pepper to taste and fresh basil and oregano; saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered for about an hour; sauce should thicken. Sample sauce midway through and add dried basil and oregano to taste.
  4. While sauce thickens, cook 4-6 chicken tenders in a non-stick pan, adding salt and pepper to taste; chop chicken and add to sauce when there are 10 minutes left on the clock.
  5. Serve as dipping sauce or over spaghetti (or spaghetti squash!)

I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make my own marinara sauce!

how to make marinara

The BF is not a fan of spaghetti squash (he’ll get there, trust me), so I served his over whole wheat angel hair spaghetti sauce, with a generous portion of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

pasta pasta

pasta pasta

For this Sometime Healthy Girl, I cooked up some spaghetti squash, threw it in a casserole dish and topped with 3/4 cup sauce, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

I then baked it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.



The marinara sauce took my ordinary baked spaghetti squash to a whole new level. I ate it for dinner and then gobbled up the leftover for lunch the very next day.

I will most definitely be making this sauce again! Just like the whipped cream, I built up this idea in my head that making it would be so complicated. It’s really not. The secret to a good sauce = patience and fresh herbs.

Next week, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies. This was a kitchen adventure, because I’ve never made cookies from my own recipe. I used guidance from Baker Bettie who has a great post about how to create your own cookie, and I think they turned out pretty good!

My live-in food critic gave them the thumbs up, and that’s as good as five stars in my book. (I think it was due to a super-secret ingredient which I will share with you next week!)

Holy coconuts!

Holy coconuts!

Off to finish some work, avoid the rain and celebrate NATIONAL DONUT DAY!

Happy National Donut Day!!

Happy National Donut Day!!

Dunkin Donuts gave me free munchkins AND a donut.


What’s one food you’re afraid of baking/cooking from scratch? Have you ever tried? What’s holding you back?

What is the secret to your marinara sauce?

Favorite Donut? (I just tried DD’s Apple Crumb. It’s my new favorite, followed by Blueberry Cake)

5 Thoughts on “Kitchen Adventures: Just Call me Giada

  1. i’ve been meaning to make chickpea chocolate chip cookies, but i’m scared that they’ll taste too “healthy” and i just wasted chickpeas. and chocolate chips 😉 love giada! i once read her quote “pasta doesn’t make you fat. how much pasta you eat makes you fat.” love her food attitude :) jersey city represent! i’m originally from jersey, if you get a chance you have to try the desserts from a filipino bakery. definitely not healthy, but oh-so delicious! turon (caramelized banana eggrolls) and sugared fried dough (essentially a donut) are my faves!

    • Ohhh great tips – I’ll run them by the BF! I love her attitude too – and she’s absolutely right: It’s all about how much of that pasta ya eat!

  2. I love the jelly donuts! :) I really, really love their caramel coffee!

  3. Pingback: Sand Cakes, Lobster Quesadillas and Beach Running | The Sometimes Healthy Living Blog

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