One of the greatest gifts I ever received was a small plastic container filled with pasta sauce from my uncle’s freezer. I know that sounds unconventional and I suppose it is, but this wasn’t just any pasta sauce. It was Uncle Martin’s Bolognese. He spent hours in his kitchen chopping carrots into tiny cubes, browning ground meat and simmering tomatoes slowly over his stove. I only see Martin once a year, and he knew how much I loved his sauce so he packaged it up and froze some just for me.
The following year, I decided to do the same thing for him. My husband and I made a big batch of mole—a Mexican sauce made from dried chiles, nuts and chocolate. We set some aside, froze it and delivered it to him when we saw him for the holidays. He is a food enthusiast, so I knew he would appreciate it. And before we knew it, a new family tradition was born.
“Sauce-Off,” as we call it, is now a real holiday tradition and has evolved to include many members of our food-centric family. During the weeks prior to our gathering, while most people are planning their holiday menus, my family members are making sauce. And the addition of more people adds just a touch of rivalry. Last year, in an attempt to outdo Martin’s Bolognese, my mother made her “world-famous” pesto. She froze it in ice cube trays, put the perfectly portioned frozen cubes in containers and proudly delivered them to us along with some of her favorite pesto-friendly recipes. Even my sister’s significant other (who never cooks, but hates to lose) contributed a homemade barbecue sauce (and a good one at that). Although we don’t officially call Sauce-Off a “competition,” each year we come up with bigger and better sauces.
This unorthodox family tradition is what I look forward to the most about the holidays. That’s why we at EatingWell thought it would be fun to ask some of our favorite cookbook authors and celebrity chefs what sauce they might make to wow their own friends and family. To make it ultra-convenient, we asked for pasta sauce recipes, which can be easily frozen, then defrosted. Just add pasta and you’ve got a quick and easy supper. What they gave us are five different mouthwatering concoctions.