For years I was the queen of weekly meal-prep. I would spend all day Sunday preparing me and my husband’s lunches, snacks, and sides for the following week. Doing this would almost guarantee that, because we had food prepared, we’d be far less likely to go out to eat and therefore we would spend less money. I liked the benefits of meal-prep: I’d eat a bit better since I was bringing something to work from home, and I’d save time by already having food prepared. Everything else I hated. I absolutely love cooking, but I hated spending my weekend prepping ingredients and making food for my lunch 4 days in the future.

I came across this infographic on Pinterest several years ago and it planted a seed in my brain. We’re all busy, we all want to save some cash by not going out, and making homemade food is good stuff. Yet, getting off of work and coming home to do an hour of prep-work in order to get dinner on the table can be incredibly unappealing. What interested me most about this image was the use of a set group of ingredients to make several completely different meals. It’s possible to use the exact same ingredients for every meal and for the end result to be entirely different.

Running with that idea, I decided to make 1 sauce and to use it to make 3 meals with the same 3 ingredients. Confining my brain to using only 3 ingredients, yet finding ways to get creative and incorporate all 3 was fun. I wanted to make sure that while each meal contains the same 3 food items, that the flavor profiles and the preparation are entirely different. This way, you won’t get tired of eating the same thing several days in a row.

Choosing seasonal, summer foods that can easily be added and adapted to a variety of meals was my focus. For vegetables, I chose to use zucchini and eggplant because they’re two of my favorites and they embody summer. The third ingredient is canned San Marzano tomatoes. Despite my garden growing a sad number of tomatoes this season, I liked the idea of using fresh tomatoes, instead of canned, but I also wanted to keep the preparation simple.

I created a simple tomato sauce that is easily adaptable, as you can see in the recipes. Herbs are added to the sauce to boost the flavor, it’s seasoned and blended to top homemade pizzas, and it can be transformed with various spices, onions, and peppers.

After creating this post and these recipes, I now look forward to doing a similar one in the fall with different seasonal produce and a heartier meal plan.

Homemade tomato sauce in a jar- 3 summer ingredients and 3 meals.

Simple Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

This simple tomato sauce will become your go-to sauce for everything from pasta to pizza and even a curry. Use this sauce as is, or add the seasonings of your choice. 

Servings: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 28 oz. cans peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low. Once the oil is hot, stir in the garlic as well as the red pepper flakes. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes, being careful to not let the garlic or the red pepper flakes burn.

  2. Add the tomatoes, as well as the salt to the pot and increase heat to medium. Using a wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes as you combine everything. It's okay to still have some tomato chunks, you're not looking to have a puree. 

  3. Bring tomato sauce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt, to taste. 

Notes

You can use a different kind of canned tomato here, such as diced, if preferred. This tomato sauce is freezer friendly and will last up to 1 month. 

Zucchini noodles with breaded eggplant and ricotta- 3 summer ingredients and 3 meals.

Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Crispy, Breaded Eggplant
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

This meal is the ultimate balanced dish. Combining crispy, breaded and fried eggplant with fresh, summer zucchini noodles, a homemade tomato sauce, and creamy herbed ricotta. 

Servings: 2
Ingredients
Veggies
  • 1 zucchini, spiralized into noodles
  • 1/2 medium eggplant, sliced 1/2" thick.
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • pinch each sea salt, black pepper
Herbed Ricotta
  • 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh herbs- such as basil, oregano, chives.
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • pinch each salt, pepper
Tomato Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups simple tomato sauce, recipe above
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 8 leaves fresh basil
Toppings
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil leaves
Instructions
  1. Prepare the zucchini noodles and the eggplant by placing both in a colander and tossing with the kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes in the sink. 

  2. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the herbed ricotta. Stir well and taste for salt. Cover and store in the fridge. 

  3. Prepare the tomato sauce by heating a medium pot over medium-low and combining the simple tomato sauce, the dried oregano, and the fresh basil. Bring the sauce to a light simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve. 

  4. In 3 separate shallow bowls, prepare your breading stations for the eggplant. Place the flour in 1 bowl, the egg in another and use a whisk to beat until smooth, and combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan in the 3rd bowl. 

  5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

  6. Using a damp paper towel or cloth, gently rub the eggplant and the zucchini noodles to remove the salt. Cut the eggplant into 1" cubes and set the zucchini noodles aside. 

  7. Dip the eggplant in the flour mixture, then the egg, and then the parmesan breadcrumbs. Set breaded eggplant aside on a clean plate. 

  8. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat for 1 minute, until hot. Carefully add the eggplant to the skillet and brown for 2 minutes on each side, transferring the eggplant to the prepared baking sheet. Once all eggplant is browned, place the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm and remain crisp. 

  9. In the same skillet, saute the zucchini noodles with a pinch of salt and pepper until heated through and noodle-like, for about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven. 

  10. To serve, divide zucchini noodles between two bowls and top with tomato sauce, breaded eggplant, and a scoop of herbed ricotta. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese and basil leaves. 

Notes

Tossing the eggplant and the zucchini with kosher salt helps to remove the bitterness from the eggplant and to stop the zucchini from becoming mushy while cooking. 

Chana masala with eggplant and zucchini and a side of rice- 3 summer ingredients and 3 meals.

Eggplant and Zucchini Chana Masala
Prep Time
8 mins
Cook Time
28 mins
Total Time
36 mins
 

Summer veggies added to a flavor bursting chana masala will leave you happy and full. Eggplant and zucchini are sauteed along with onion, ginger and a spicy pepper in masala spices with a rich, homemade tomato sauce. 

Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick, quartered
  • 1 cup eggplant, sliced into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1" fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped and seeded if preferred
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups simple tomato sauce, recipe above
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked
Toppings:
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • lemon wedges
  • sriracha
  • brown rice
Instructions
  1. Prepare the eggplant and the zucchini by tossing with the kosher salt in a colander. Let the vegetables sit in the sink for 30 minutes. Using a cloth or a paper towel, remove the salt from the zucchini and eggplant. 

  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and add the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, stir in the cumin seeds. Stir constantly until fragrant, being careful not to let the seeds burn. 

  3. Increase the heat to medium and add the chopped onion, ginger, and chili pepper to the skillet. Saute until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and salt and let the spices toast and become fragrant. Add the zucchini and the eggplant to the skillet and stir, distributing the spices among the vegetables. 

  4. Add the simple tomato sauce and the drained chickpeas, stirring to combine. Cover the skillet and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

  5. To serve, divide the masala vegetables among 4 wide bowls and top with fresh cilantro, lemon wedges, and sriracha if preferred. Enjoy with brown rice. 

Notes

Tossing the eggplant and the zucchini with kosher salt helps to remove the bitterness from the eggplant and to stop the zucchini from becoming mushy while cooking. 

Pizza with grilled eggplant and zucchini- 3 Summer ingredients and 3 meals

Summer Eggplant and Zucchini Pizza with Goat Cheese
Prep Time
35 mins
Cook Time
8 mins
Total Time
43 mins
 

Homemade pizza will always surpass anything a chain pizza co. can deliver to your front door. Toppings include grilled zucchini and eggplant, goat cheese, fresh basil, and pine nuts.  

Servings: 2 pizzas
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, sliced into 1/4" thick half-moons
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch each sea salt, black pepper
  • 1 cup simple tomato sauce, recipe above
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1 recipe for sourdough pizza dough , or homemade crust of your choice
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese
Toppings
  • pine nuts
  • fresh basil leaves
  • freshly grated parmesan
  • red pepper flakes
  • drizzle olive oil
Instructions
  1. Start off by preparing the eggplant and the zucchini by tossing with the kosher salt in a colander. Set the colander in the sink for 30 minutes. 

  2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce by combining the simple tomato sauce, oregano, and basil in a blender. Blend the sauce until smooth, this should only take about 1 minute. 

  3. After 30 minutes, use a damp paper towel or a cloth to wipe down and remove the salt from the vegetables. 

  4. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Once hot, add the zucchini and the eggplant to the pan. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear. Set aside.

  5. Prepare pizza dough according to whatever recipe you are using. Top dough with tomato sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Distribute the zucchini and eggplant on top of the pizza and sprinkle with goat cheese. Bake according to instructions.

  6. To serve, sprinkle pizza with pine nuts, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil leaves. Grate fresh parmesan on top and drizzle a bit of olive oil. 

Notes

Tossing the eggplant and the zucchini with kosher salt helps to remove the bitterness from the eggplant and to stop the zucchini from becoming mushy while cooking. The ingredients listed in this recipe will make enough for 2, 12" pizzas- which is what the pizza dough recipe I use makes. If you don't have a pizza dough recipe you like, the premade refrigerated dough at the store is a great substitute. And if you're super short on time, you can buy a package of garlic naan and use that as your dough, as well. 

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