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Rachael Ray Spills on Her Favorite Make-Ahead Meals, Pantry Staples, and More!

I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to get my hands on Rachael Ray’s new cookbook Week in a Day. The concept of the book is simple: spend one day cooking and prepare enough meals for five nights. Clever, right? Imagine coming home after a busy weeknight, having only to pop a pre-made dish on the stove or in the oven to warm up. Change your clothes, open a bottle of wine, and dinner — a home-cooked dinner — is served.

I had the privilege of chatting on the phone with Rachael herself about the book, and she was so friendly and down-to-earth. See below for our interview where she spills tricks for storing make-ahead meals, her pantry staples, and more!

What inspired you to write the book?
This book came out of the way I actually cook at home. I have very few days off, and I have to make more than one meal when I do have an opportunity to cook. That’s the promise of this book — when you have the luxury of a day off, spend some of it cooking so when you come home during the week, all you have to do is heat it up.

You talk about “foundation recipes.” What are those, and why are they so important?
The idea of a foundation recipe is to make a big batch of something that is used over several meals. Batches of stock. Pulled pork. Braised beef. Building blocks like basic poached chicken can yield several recipes like salads, stews, and casseroles.

What are some tips for storing and reheating make-ahead meals?
Always bring food to room temperature and then chill it. Never put hot food directly in the fridge. Then bring it back to room temperature before you reheat it. Freeze meals in Ziploc freezer bags. Get the air out and store them flat. Date, label, and stack the bags — this will give you so much more room in the freezer. When making a dish with cream, add it at the end, when you re-heat. Citrus and fresh herbs should also be added at the end, just before a dish is served.

What exactly makes something a good meal to make ahead of time?
Great make-aheads should either be stable in the fridge for a week, or they should be freezable. Examples include saucy dishes, chili, soups, stews, and braised meats (which actually get better the longer they set). Other great make-aheads are casseroles and stacked dishes, like lasagna.

What are some of your must-have pantry staples?
Carrots, celery, onions. Garlic. Canned beans and fish. Tomato products. Fresh herbs and grating cheeses. Citrus. Olive oil. And I always have wine! In the freezer are proteins that I find on sale, then individually portion and freeze.

What’s your favorite make-ahead meal?
This time of year, it’s any of the baked pastas. But also soups and stews. It’s hard to pick a favorite!

Tell me about it! I couldn’t wait to make a dish from the book and had about a dozen earmarked as “must-make!” I settled on this baked spaghetti squash as it was easy to convert to a vegan recipe for my daughter. Not only was it delicious, but my kitchen smelled amazing as the sauce was cooking!

Check out my photo guide to whipping up roasted tomato marinara with spaghetti squash, and get the full recipe below the slideshow!

  • Roasted Tomato Marinara with Spaghetti Squash 1 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara with spaghetti squash

    If you think that there's no such thing as a "hearty" vegetarian entree, think again. This delicious dish is satisfying enough to stand on its own — and your kitchen will smell heavenly as the roasted tomato marinara cooks away!

  • Oven-Roasted Tomoatoes 2 of 8
    roasted tomatoes

    Oven-roasting at a high temperature brings out the sweetness and rich flavors of even ho-hum plum tomatoes. All they need is a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some scattered smashed garlic cloves.

  • Make-Ahead 3 of 8
    oven roasted tomatoes

    Aren't these beautiful? The roasted tomatoes can be made ahead and stored in the fridge 'til you're ready to use.

  • Prep Your Ingredients 4 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara, onion garlic oregano

    While the tomatoes are roasting, I like to get the other ingredients ready to go. The onions, garlic, and oregano all go into the pot at the same time, so I chop them up and put them in a small bowl so they're ready to go!

  • Spaghetti Squash 5 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara, spaghetti squash

    Have you ever cooked with spaghetti squash? I love it — and it's high in nutrients as well as being a nice alternative to traditional pasta. Don't be intimated by its large size and bulky shape; it's a snap to prepare in the oven!

  • Cut in Half, Remove the Seeds 6 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara, spaghetti squash

    To prepare spaghetti squash, simply cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the strings and seeds. Season with salt and pepper, and place — cut sides down — on a lined baking sheet. That's it! In about an hour, the flesh will be tender and ready to use.

  • "Spaghetti" 7 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara, spaghetti squash

    This is why spaghetti squash is so aptly named. When you scrape out the cooked flesh, it turns into spaghetti-like strands. Toss with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper — right in the shells, which you'll serve this dish in!

  • Dinner Is Served! 8 of 8
    roasted tomato marinara, spaghetti squash

    Top this dish off with lots of freshly grated parmesan and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Warm, delicious and so satisfying!

 

Spicy Roasted-Tomato Marinara with Spaghetti Squash
adapted from Week in a Day

Ingredients:

For Roasted Tomatoes:
8 plum tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

For Marinara:
3 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
5 anchovy fillets
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. oregano leaves
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 c. red or white wine
1 c. chicken stock (I used vegetable stock to make it vegan)
1/3 c. finely chopped flat leaf parsley, plus additional for garnish
2 medium spaghetti squash
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese (I omitted on the vegan servings)

Method:

Make the roasted tomatoes: Pre-heat oven to 500. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the tomatoes, cut-side down, on the baking sheet. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, or till the skins start to char and split. When cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes. Store covered in the fridge till ready to use.

Prepare the squash: Reduce oven temperature to 450; line two baking sheets with foil. Halve the squash lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Season the squash with salt and pepper and place cut sides down on the baking sheets. Roast till very tender, 45 minutes to one hour.

While squash is baking, make the marinara: in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cover, shaking the pot until the anchovies being to break up. Lower the heat a bit, uncover and stir until the anchovies melt. Add the onion, garlic and oregano. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, or till the onion is very soft. Add the tomato paste and stir one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping up any bits that are at the bottom of the pot. Add the stock, roasted tomatoes and parsley, and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Turn the squash halves over, and use a fork to scrape the flesh into spaghetti-like strands. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Top with the marinara, plenty of grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

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